Besides Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews is the most famous, decorated and well-paid member of the Green Bay Packers. As such, his absence makes headlines. But does losing Matthews really impact the Packers’ defense?
Matthews missed four games in 2012 with a hamstring injury. I went back and looked at how Green Bay fared both with and without their star outside linebacker, who had 16 sacks last season (including three in two postseason games).
The following numbers include the playoffs.
- With Matthews: 342.4
- Without Matthews: 374.3
Passing yards allowed per game (2012)
- With Matthews: 217.1
- Without Matthews: 216.3
Rushing yards allowed per game (2012)
- With Matthews: 125.3
- Without Matthews: 158
Points allowed per game (2012)
- With Matthews: 21.4
- Without Matthews: 23
Team record (2012)
- With Matthews: 9-5
- Without Matthews: 3-1
Based on yardage and points allowed, it looks like the Packers’ defense performed slightly better with Matthews in the lineup, even considering the 45 points and 579 yards the 49ers amassed in the NFC Divisional Round.
This season, Matthews missed four games in October and November due to a thumb injury which recently required surgery (that’s why he missed the last regular season game and is listed as “out” for Sunday’s game against the 49ers). Green Bay’s defense has struggled all year, but they actually performed worse with Matthews on the field.
Total yards allowed per game (2013)
- With Matthews: 395.5
- Without Matthews: 321.1
Passing yards allowed per game (2013)
- With Matthews: 262.1
- Without Matthews: 214.6
Rushing yards allowed per game (2013)
- With Matthews: 133.4
- Without Matthews: 106.6
Points allowed per game (2013)
- With Matthews: 28.4
- Without Matthews: 23.2
Team record (2013)
- With Matthews: 4-6-1
- Without Matthews: 4-1
These numbers aside, no one in their right mind would state that the Packers are better with either Mike Neal or Andy Mulumba playing in place of Matthews. But despite making a lot of noise against the 49ers in the first game of the season with a sack and that hit out of bounds on Colin Kaepernick, Matthews hasn’t looked like the same player who was named second-team All-Pro last season.
In the 2012 regular season, Matthews had 13 sacks, 11 quarterback hits and 24 hurries while earning a score of 25.5 from Pro Football Focus (which put Matthews in the “elite” category). In one fewer game this season, Matthews had 7.5 sacks, four hits and 21 hurries with a PFF score of just 1.2 (which is merely average).
So while it sounds like a big deal that Matthews is out, it’s probably not something the 49ers are thinking about all that much. With Rodgers back and the Packers’ defense playing pretty horribly all season long, the only thing that’ll keep Sunday’s game from being a high-scoring affair is probably the weather … according to Weather.com, the HIGH temperature in Green Bay is supposed to be 4 degrees on Sunday after a day of snow showers on Saturday.
Nobody could watch that first game of the year and say that Clay Matthews did not have a great game against us. He was all over the field, continuously blowing up plays and helping to stuff the 49ers run game. Watch the film... he was a monster.
So whatever type of season he may have had, I, for one, am exceedingly happy he'll be on the sidelines this weekend. I think he's their best defensive player and to have him out is a blessing.
Any stats you use to show the Packers' D performance with and without Matthews will suffer from small sample size and are likely largely meaningless.
@BASportsGuy yes because he's overrated
@BASportsGuy Do you know offhand which teams the Steelers played w/o Matthews?
@BASportsGuy It means we win by about 7 more points than we were already going to win by if he played.
@GnoccoFritto I think it'll be a bigger margin of victory, like 33-24
@Chris_Sherwood I'm guessing you mean the Packers. Without Matthews they faced the Ravens, Browns and Vikings, and the Bears twice.
@BASportsGuy Er, yes, thanks. Seems like a mixed bag offensively; totally different teams showing up week to week with CLE, MIN, BAL.