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Game Notes: Sacks Keep Coming For Matthews

PITTSBURGH - It appeared that outside linebacker Clay Matthews had posted his ninth sack of the season with a sack/forced fumble of Ben Roethlisberger late in the first quarter, and even though the ruling was overturned, Matthews still found a way to put his name in the franchise record books later on in the game. - More Packers-Steelers Game Center


PITTSBURGH - It appeared that outside linebacker Clay Matthews had posted his ninth sack of the season with a sack/forced fumble of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger late in the first quarter, and even though the ruling was overturned, Matthews still found a way to put his name in the franchise record books later on in the game.

Matthews tied for the team lead with two sacks, his third two-sack performance this year, and now has a team-high 10 sacks this season. He came into the game tied for the Packers rookie record at eight sacks with Tim Harris (1986) and Vonnie Holliday (1998), and now stands alone among rookies in team history.

"It means a lot, but it would have meant a lot more if we had won today," Matthews said. "It's tough anytime you have a loss. It's tough. It definitely means a great deal, but like I have said in days prior, this is a team game. I wouldn't be able to get all of those if it weren't for the other guys on the field. All the praise goes out to them."

Matthews appeared to make a momentum-changing play late in the first quarter with the Packers trailing the Steelers, 14-7. On third-and-5 from the Steelers' 34, Matthews beat tackle Max Starks off the edge, and chopped the ball out of Roethlisberger's hand as he brought him to the ground. He also made the recovery, falling on the ball at Pittsburgh's 27, which appeared to give Green Bay's offense prime field position to tie up the game.

But Pittsburgh challenged the ruling on the field, and after reviewing the play the official ruled that Roethlisberger's arm was coming forward, wiping out the sack and turnover since the play was now an incomplete pass. The hit on Roethlisberger still forced a punt, but instead of taking over at the Steelers' 27, the Packers took over at their own 27.

"I always feel like I've got a sack, but I haven't had a chance to review the film," Matthews said. "Hopefully they made the right decision. I can't sit here and judge, but it definitely would have been a key swing in momentum for our team right there. A sack/caused fumble would have given the ball back to our offense and hopefully they would have scored. But that's how it goes sometimes."

After having the sack taken away, Matthews wasted no time getting back to Roethlisbeger. Midway through the second quarter and the Steelers again facing a third down, this time at their own 32, Matthews once again beat Starks and brought the quarterback down for a 10-yard loss to force another punt.

Later in the second quarter, Matthews brought Roethlisberger down again for a 4-yard sack, putting him at double digits for the season. He currently trails only Washington's Brian Orakpo (11.0), who plays on Monday night, for the rookie sack lead, and the pair become the first rookies since Chicago's Mark Anderson (12.0) and Cleveland's Kamerion Wimbley (11.0) in 2006 to register 10-plus sacks. Jevon Kearse holds the all-time rookie record with 14½ sacks for Tennessee in 1999.

Matthews is now 5½ sacks ahead of the next closest Packer (Cullen Jenkins, 4½), and if he hangs on to the team lead he would become just the second rookie in franchise annals to lead the team in sacks. Harris led the team with his eight sacks in '86.

Matthews wasn't the only rookie that got to Roethlisberger on Sunday, as fellow outside linebacker Brad Jones posted the first two-sack performance of his career with both coming in the first nine minutes of the second half. The performance by the duo was the first time in team history that two rookies recorded two sacks in the same game.

Earlier this month, Matthews registered two sacks and Jones one in the Packers' 27-14 win over Baltimore in Week 13. Since sacks became an official statistic in 1982, only five times in team history have two rookies posted sacks in a game, and Matthews and Jones are responsible for two of those performances.

Elite company

Green Bay entered Sunday's contest with Pittsburgh as the No. 2 rushing defense in the league, allowing opponents an average of just 85.0 yards per game.

They saw that average drop again after giving up just 65 yards on 19 carries (3.4 avg.) to the Steelers. It was the 11th time this season that Green Bay's defense has held their opponent to under 90 yards rushing in a game. That mark ties a team record, with the 1996 Super Bowl XXX champion Packers also posting the same number on their way to a No. 1 overall defensive ranking. The 11 games is a league high this season.

Even after another strong performance, the defense still ranks No. 2 in the league against the run. Their opponent Sunday, the Steelers, came into the game allowing just 84.9 yards per game on the ground, and the Packers picked up 60 yards on 12 carries (5.0 avg.) on Sunday.

Pittsburgh is now allowing opponents an average of 83.1 yards per game, with the Packers right behind at 83.6 per contest.

Catches keep coming

Jermichael Finley has been one of the more productive tight ends in the league since returning from a knee injury in Week 11 vs. San Francisco, and he continued that play by leading the team with a career-high nine receptions, which matched the single-game franchise record, for 74 yards on Sunday in Pittsburgh.

The performance was Finley's seventh 50-yard game of the season, which matches Paul Coffman's franchise record for a tight end set in 1981 and 1983. What makes that even more impressive is the fact that Finley was sidelined for three games and most of a fourth contest after sustaining the injury on the opening drive at Cleveland in Week 7.

The career day for Finley was also the fourth time this season he has caught six or more passes in a game. The last Packers tight end to accomplish that feat was Coffman in 1979.

Since Finley returned in Week 11, he has 31 receptions in five games, the third-highest total by an NFL tight end behind only Atlanta's Tony Gonzalez (34) and Dallas' Jason Witten (33).

Changing it up

Kicker Mason Crosby has had his struggles of late, missing a field goal from 43 yards or in each of the last three games, and on Sunday he found himself working with a different holder.

Punter Jeremy Kapinos held on extra points and field goals for the first time in his career after the Packers used backup quarterback Matt Flynn in the first 12 games.

{sportsad300}Crosby attempted only one field goal on Sunday, a 34-yarder early in the second quarter, but pushed it wide right.

"We made the decision this week," Crosby said. "We got some good reps and had a good week of work. We felt good with how it went this week, so it was a little disappointing to have that one in the game here. Obviously I haven't been making those short ones. I just think we just thought if we can make a switch and kind of start fresh and get out of this little hole. They're just not going through right now.

"We'll look at the film, but he did a good job today. He stepped in really well and that one is on me. The ball was going to go right and I just didn't get it far enough left."

Injury/participation update

Running back Ryan Grant got the wind knocked out of him on a first-quarter run, but he returned to the field on the next series.

Linebacker Nick Barnett bruised his surgically-repaired right knee early in the second half, but returned to action after missing just two plays.

Wide receiver Greg Jennings (ankle) and Chad Clifton (shoulder) also sustained injuries early in the second half, but both returned. Jones battled cramps in the second half and also returned.

Green Bay's inactives on Sunday were wide receiver Patrick Williams, fullback John Kuhn, cornerback Brandon Underwood, safety Matt Giordano, tackle Breno Giacomini, tackle/guard Allen Barbre, defensive end Michael Montgomery and linebacker Jeremy Thompson.

For Kuhn, it was the first time he was inactive in his career. The fourth-year fullback had played in 54 straight games, including all 45 during his time in Green Bay. Korey Hall started in his place.

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