The Green Bay Packers (1-1) defense hasn't wowed anyone in the first two weeks of the regular season. Through two games, the Packers defense has three sacks and have forced only one turnover against the San Francisco 49ers and Washington Redskins. Playing against the Cincinnati Bengals this weekend though will be different, as the defense doesn't have to worry about defending mobile quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III on Sunday.
"Seeing those mobile quarterbacks, our gameplan was to keep them in the pocket," Packers All-Pro outside linebacker Clay Matthews said. "Our defense played so well in the first half last week (against the Redskins). Hopefully this week we will take advantage of an opportunity to pin our ears back and get after the quarterback."
The Packers were able to sack Kaepernick twice in their season opening loss at San Francisco, which Matthews said gave the defense a boost of confidence. "Week one (against the 49ers), we didn't expect to get any sacks," Matthews said. "Obviously we strive for sacks and disrupting the quarterback. It'll be a good test."
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton is nowhere near as mobile a quarterback as Kaepernick or Griffin, but Matthews said the defense will have a tough game ahead defending the Red Rifle and their offensive arsenal. "I feel we are all taking shots at their quarterback," Matthews said to reporters on Thursday. "He is still a very good athlete. Their offense doesn't allow for him to run, and it allows us to be pass rushers a little more. It brings a smile to my face, but we'll see what it means after this week."
Matthews said he hopes Sunday's game in Cincinnati defines the Packers defensive identity. "We pride ourselves on getting after the quarterback and getting turnovers," Matthews said. It is always an emphasis here on defense and we are kind of behind the eight ball. It'll definitely be on our mind, but hopefully we create some opportunities to get some strips and turnovers."
The Bengals have steadily improved since drafting Dalton and Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green in the 2011 NFL Draft, as the team also selected tight end Tyler Eifert in the first round of this past April's draft, while fellow tight end Jermaine Gresham has become a pro bowl caliber player. Matthews said he knows the outside linebackers will have their hands full defending both Gresham and Eifert, as will the defensive secondary against Green. "You have to understand…the playmakers are going to make their plays," Matthews said about Green. "He is one of those guys you have to keep an eye on."
In the last two weeks, the Packers have been outscored by their opponents in the fourth quarter, 26-7. Rightfully so, the mantra preached in Packers practice this week by the coaches and players has been to finish better and Matthews said he knows the Packers should be 2-0 instead of 1-1. "You look at San Francisco, we had the lead and gave it up," Matthews said. "Last week, we gave up 20 points in three possessions. It really is about finishing on both sides of the ball, especially on defense. We need to win with our defensive group."
Other News and Notes: The Packers have ruled out safety Morgan Burnett (hamstring) and cornerback Jarrett Bush (hamstring) for Sunday's game in Cincinnati. Packers rookie running back Eddie Lacy (concussion) is questionable to play on Sunday. Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said earlier this week veteran running back James Starks is the "definite starter" for Sunday…Packers cornerback Tramon Williams (groin), tight end Jermichael Finley (toe), offensive lineman T.J. Lang (back) and defensive tackle Johnny Jolly (neck) are all listed as probable to play Sunday…Packers offensive back John Kuhn (hamstring) is doubtful for Sunday.
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