Clay Matthews: Does He Have a Chance to Break the Sack Record?
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11 years ago, I was eight and playing with Pokemon; it also was when the gold standard of sacks per season were set for the NFL. Michael Strahan, a defensive end for the Giants, racked up 22.5 of them on his way to winning the Defensive Player of the Year Award.
(Note: Deacon Jones totally had more than 22.5 sacks twice, but it was before the NFL had stats for sacks so no one even really counts it. Jones doesn't get enough credit for what he's done to the NFL.)
It's two weeks into the 2012 NFL season and Clay Matthews has six sacks; Packer fans have a full mind on what he can accomplish over the next 14 games. Strahan, at this time, had a whopping total of zero. In fact, Strahan only had five games in 2001 with two or more sacks (although he did have two with 1.5).
Strahan had a six-week stretch where he got 14 sacks in the middle of the season, a 3.5 sack performance in the second-to-last game to vault him back into the record conversation, and a dummy sack on Brett Favre to go down in the record books. More than anything, this record takes luck.
From the first snap this year, Clay Matthews has looked like something special, but no one would have guessed that his first two sack totals (2.5, 3.5) would have been better than any of the past 34 times he's stepped on the field. The craziest part? He looks frustrated that he's not reaching his potential.
Turn on either of the games from 2012 and you will see Matthews storming off the field after being held because he knew he could had another one. He's got the talent as a pass rusher and he has the hunger for a sack comparable to Albert Haynesworth at an all you can eat buffet.
I can't think of anyone in the NFL that can stop Matthews one on one. I know you never count anyone out because it's the NFL, and anything can happen on given Sunday. But the Giants are the only team on the Packers' schedule that stands out, because they might have the offensive line and scheme that can stop him for an entire game.
Here are how the sack matchups break down so far:
Green Bay as a unit is getting to the quarterback at a high rate, even compared to other teams' pass rush. This, more than anything, will help Matthews. Teams just can't scheme for CM3 because, when they are least expecting it, Charles Woodson is going to be in the quarterback's face faster than you can say "mistake."
Another factor that will help Matthews is the Green Bay offense. The more teams pass, the more chance for sacks in a game. Everyone knows the NFL is becoming more of a passing league, but teams also have to pass when they start losing against teams with great offenses.
Teams are going to have to play the "Packer way" when they are losing, which means Matthews will get more chances at glory this year.
Everything seems to be adding up for Clay, all he needs is a little luck.
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