Is Clay Matthews III Now the Front Runner for Defensive ROY?

Dean SomervilleCorrespondent IDecember 8, 2009

GREEN BAY, WI - DECEMBER 7:  Clay Matthews #52 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates after he sacked Joe Flacco #5 of the Baltimore Ravens in the first half at Lambeau Field on December 7, 2009 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

While many will comment on the ugliness of the win against the Ravens, no one in Packerland will complain.

Yes, there are penalty issues to deal with. 

Yes, the punting is just barely adequate. 

Yes, the special teams give up too many big yardage returns.

Those are things that will be sorted out on an improving team. 

The defense again was beyond just good. They were so dominant this should have been a massive blowout. The offense moved the ball well and responded to controversy after back-to-back turnovers. 

This game needs to be and will be the springboard to two very personal things in this team game. It was Monday Night Football . Everyone who matters when it comes to awards was watching.

Two things became very clear.

The first was simply confirmation. Charles Woodson is going to the Pro Bowl as the Defensive Player of the Year. Much is made of the interceptions, the fantastic coverage, and the leadership of this young Packer team.

The play that may cement him as the league defensive player of the year is one VERY few cornerbacks would make.

After another of many pass interference calls during the game, this one giving the Ravens first and goal at the one with a chance to get back to within three points, Woodson charged across the line of scrimmage and nailed Ray Rice for a four-yard loss. The loss forced the Ravens out of a run play-call and into a passing down.

The next play, great coverage in the secondary, excellent pressure up front, and the ball is put up for grabs. Packer interception, and the final threat of the game is wiped out.

For all the other great plays, such leadership and refusal to give in have made Woodson the obvious choice as Defensive Player of the Year.

The other, perhaps less obvious occurrence is that Clay Matthews III on that same stage grabbed the Defensive Rookie of the Year lead. Two QB sacks give him the lead over all others except Brian Orakpo. Orakpo started from game one of the season and is a rush specialist.

Matthews was all over the field, covering Todd Heap on pass routes, slamming the door on off-tackle runs, and running Rice out of real estate at the sidelines numerous times. Tonight there was no interception or forced or recovered fumble, but the season has been highlighted by those types of plays.

The Packers now have the kind of edge-rushing, TE-erasing, game-changing, big-play-making "difference maker" that will make this defense elite for years to come. 

On this stage tonight, Clay Matthews III announced his presence with authority. Now the voters will check the stats, look at the improvement on the defensive side of the ball, and give this playoff team a second major award. Mr. Matthews, join Mr. Woodson claiming hardware.

Somehow this week I doubt there will be many cries for Ted Thompson's scalp. This was a draft to remember in a season we will remember. 

This team is set to make a deep run in the playoffs, thanks to hardware-winning performances by TT's greatest free agent signing and possibly his best draft pick, although there are a great number of them Mr. Matthews will need to outperform to get that award.