EAGLES LINEBACKER Casey Matthews got quite a surprise when he sat down to watch his brother Clay and the Green Bay Packers play the Bears Sunday night.
"I turned it on and he was stacked at inside linebacker" instead of lined up on the end as a 3-4 outside 'backer/pass rusher, Casey Matthews said yesterday. "I thought it was just the package they were in, but I saw him keep lining up that way. It was funny at first, but he was making plays."
The Packers, last in the NFL against the run coming into the Chicago game, were getting hammered for 153.5 yards per game on the ground. They'd given up at least 100 yards 12 games in a row, and, in their previous game, a 44-23 loss at New Orleans, Mark Ingram had trampled them for 172. During their bye week, defensive coordinator Dom Capers decided he had one move he could make, a big one: He could take Clay Matthews, Green Bay's four-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker, and move him inside.
The move worked. Chicago ran for 55 yards on 24 carries - partly because the score got out of hand early, the Bears forced to throw as the Packers ultimately routed their NFC North rivals, 55-14. Matthews had his best game of the season, posting a career-high 11 tackles and a sack.
"He did well, so you've got to assume he'll play more of it," Casey Matthews said. "I don't think he liked too much about it. He was happy to get that sack [of Jay Cutler], but that was when he was back to outside" in the Packers' dime package. "He likes getting after the passer, taking on the linemen . . . I told him to look at it this way: He's the highest-paid inside linebacker in the league. He got a laugh out of that."
Putting Matthews in the middle of the action makes him harder to block, but it also means he isn't pass-rushing on every dropback. The Packers, deep outside and thin inside, thought they could withstand the switch, though they haven't committed to making it permanent.
"I don't think they revealed to us everything they'll do with [Matthews] in there," Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. He said the Birds will have to wait and see where Matthews is this week, in which situations.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy told a conference call yesterday Green Bay worked on the move in the spring.
"During the bye week, we felt it was time to try that package," he said.
Casey Matthews has always been an inside linebacker, but he said his brother hasn't asked him for any tips. He's not sure his experience is applicable.
"They give him a lot of freedom, blitz him a lot, too," Casey Matthews said.
The brothers, two of the six Mathews family members to play in the NFL, faced each other for the first time last year, when the Eagles won at Lambeau Field, 27-13, but Casey was mostly a special-teams player for the Birds then and Clay tried to play with an outsized wrapping protecting a thumb injury. He was ineffective, and told his brother afterward he wasn't sure he should have played.
This year, Clay is healthy and Casey is splitting time with Emmanuel Acho, now that DeMeco Ryans is out for the season with an Achilles' tear.
Mike McCarthy told a conference call yesterday that quarterback Aaron Rodgers "really doesn't have a weakness" . . . Darren Sproles was named NFC special teams player of the week for the second time this season, in the wake of his 65-yard punt return touchdown against Carolina. Sproles also has been the offensive player of the week this year . . . Rodgers missed seven games last season, including the Packers' home loss to the Eagles, with a left collarbone injury seemingly similar to the one suffered by Eagles quarterback Nick Foles. "It's a frustrating injury," Rodgers said on a conference call yesterday. "Not a place that gets a lot of blood flow At 6 weeks or so, I felt good, but the scan was showing it wasn't completely healed yet . . . Every bone, every person's body heals differently" . . . The Packers are 4-0 at home, scoring an average of 41.5 points per game, 2-3 on the road, scoring 22.2 . . . Eagles tight end Brent Celek, who left the Carolina game late with a left ankle injury, practiced fully yesterday.