Clay Matthews' Hot Start Is Just What the Packers' Defense Needs to Thrive

Darin PikeContributor ISeptember 14, 2012

Sept 13, 2012; Green Bay, WI, USA;  Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews (52) celebrates with defensive tackle Jerel Worthy (99) after a sack during the game against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field.  Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-US PRESSWIRE

The Green Bay Packers came up short of their goal of a repeat Super Bowl win following the 2011 season. Their defense was opportunistic, registering an amazing 31 interceptions with seven fumble recoveries, but they surrendered a league-worst 411.6 yards per game last season.

Clay Matthews is off to a very fast start and could be the missing piece in repairing the Packers' defensive woes.

Statistics don't tell the entire story of Green Bay's defense last season. They have a potent offense and teams needed to air the ball out to try to keep pace on the scoreboard.

This helped inflate their yards surrendered while also padding their interception total.

But the Packers weren't able to take advantage of pass-heavy opponents in the sack department last season. They were near the bottom of the NFL with just 29 total sacks.

After a four-sack performance against Alex Smith and the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1, Green Bay had three sacks in the first half against the Chicago Bears and seven total, pushing them to 11 sacks in two games.

Matthews is the primary motor with six sacks in two games. That equals his entire production from 2011 and has him on track to challenge his career-high mark of 13.5 sacks in his second season.

If the Packers can continue to find weaknesses in opposing offensive lines and pressure quarterbacks, then they will be formidable this season. This approach helped them record four interceptions against the Bears and one of the best quotes in recent memory.

Just interviewed Charles Woodson on the field - he said: "It's the same old Jay. We just need to be in position. Jay will throw us the ball"

— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) September 14, 2012

While this level of trash-talk might normally rub some fans the wrong way, it is hard to deny that Cutler had it coming. He started the foray earlier in the week.

Jay Cutler's message to Packers' secondary ahead of Thursday night: "Good luck."…

— NFL: AroundTheLeague (@NFL_ATL) September 11, 2012

Both teams now stand at 1-1, but it is hard to say they are on similar footing. The Packers showed a dominating presence on defense and continue to boast one of the best offenses in football.

The Packers have what could be their toughest game of the season behind them while the Bears' win against the Colts in Week 1 came in what could be their easiest game of the year. 

Green Bay isn't likely to take the pressure off opposing quarterbacks anytime soon. They travel to Seattle next week to face a Seahawk offensive line that struggled against the Arizona Cardinals. Seattle also has a rookie quarterback currently under center.

They will face the Indianapolis Colts, St. Louis Rams and Jacksonville Jaguars in October and begin November against Arizona. Those games feature young quarterbacks and some rather porous offensive lines. 

The sacks should continue to pile up for Green Bay and Matthews in particular, likely spurring the team to maintain the top-spot in interceptions.

A stout defense mixed with the Packer offense will make Green Bay a daunting opponent.