With Christmas less than a week away, Tennessee Titans coach Mike Munchak has stressed the importance of family connection — to one person, at least.
Munchak joked Wednesday about the need for offensive line coach Bruce Matthews to make contact with his nephew, Clay Matthews III, in the coming days even though the two already are scheduled to get together Sunday at Lambeau Field. Make that because the two will get together Sunday at Lambeau Field.
Clay Matthews is a fourth-year linebacker for the Green Bay Packers and one of the top defensive players anywhere in the NFL. That makes him a priority for Titans players and coaches as they prepare for Sunday’s game (noon, CBS).
“Hopefully, [Bruce] will reach out to him during the week and tell him that we have all kinds of plans for him to kind of discourage him a little bit, maybe slow him down,” Munchak said.
The Matthews family legacy in the NFL is well-documented. Bruce and his brother Clay each enjoyed longer-than-normal playing careers, and the former earned a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Their father was a defensive lineman with San Francisco in the 1950s.
Clay Jr. has two sons currently in the NFL, Clay (Green Bay) and Casey, who also is a linebacker (Philadelphia). One of Bruce’s sons, Kevin, is an offensive lineman with the Titans and another, Jake, is a starter at Texas A&M and by all accounts well on his way to a spot in the NFL as well.
Kevin Matthews started at center for Tennessee each of the last two weeks but missed out on an opportunity to go toe-to-toe with his cousin this week because of an ankle injury sustained in Monday’s victory over the New York Jets. Bruce Matthews, though, still was the one who had to spend time the last few days trying to figure out the best way to block his nephew.
“It’s kind of exciting, I think, for Bruce to watch the film and know that he has to prevent [Clay] from having a good day,” Munchak said. “It’s a great challenge. He’ll be on our left side most of the time so [left tackle] Mike Roos will have an opportunity to have a great matchup all day long against a player that’s going to give him everything he’s got.”
Chances are it will take the Titans’ best effort to stop him.
Clay Matthews, the 26th overall pick in the 2009 draft, currently is tied for seventh in the NFL with 11 sacks despite the fact that he missed four games with injury. He had two Sunday in a victory over Chicago and has had as many a 3.5 in a game this season.
Since he entered the league in 2009 he is one of five players with at least 40 sacks, and his 40.5 already is sixth on the Packers’ all-time list. He was the first Packers player in nearly 40 years to make the Pro Bowl each of his first three seasons, and the only player to score a defensive touchdown in each of his first three seasons.
“He’s a great pass rusher, and I think we’ve gone against some good pass rushers this year,” Tennessee quarterback Jake Locker said. “You just have to have a plan against a guy like that and execute it really well.”
As injuries have battered Tennessee’s offensive line much of the season, Locker and Matt Hasselbeck have been sacked 30 times Eleven of those have come in the last three weeks, including four Monday against the Jets.
It is a disturbing trend with someone like Matthews, an outside rusher in the Packers’ 3-4 scheme, on tap.
“They use him in a lot of interesting ways as far as rushing the passer, have him on the edge, stunt him, have him drop in coverage,” Munchak said. “He does a little bit of everything. He’s making plays that you wouldn’t think he’d make, even in the run game. He’s fitting that system very nicely for them.”
Not to mention the fact that he’s keeping up a family tradition of excellence.
“Clay is very proud of his family, and rightfully so,” Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said. “They’re a close family. I know his parents are out here quite a bit, so I’m sure he’s really looking forward to it.”
He also ought to expect a call from his uncle. Soon.