Packers defense shows improvement despite injuries
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) ��� With so much potentially at stake for the Green Bay Packers in the final month of the season, Clay Matthews is testing his tolerance for pain.
"(I'm) a little sore," Matthews said Monday, as he made a brief appearance in the locker room.
Another encouraging performance by Green Bay's defense in a 21-13 win over the Houston Texans on Sunday at snowy Lambeau Field included some gritty efforts by a few guys who played hurt.
While Matthews is playing through a painful shoulder injury, fellow linebackers Nick Perry and Jake Ryan returned to the game after early setbacks sent them to the training room.
Perry played the second half with a big club on his left hand after he left the field following the first series. Ryan resumed playing late in the first half after he reinjured his ankle and limped back to the locker room to have it re-taped.
"I respect those guys so much for that because that's a lot of physical toughness to do that," safety Morgan Burnett said.
"It's also a lot of mental toughness to actually go in knowing that you're going to feel that pain, but when they say all hands on deck, those guys are an example of that."
Despite the adversity, the defense has solidified during a two-game winning streak, which has Green Bay back to .500 with a 6-6 record and on a quest to catch the NFC North-leading Detroit Lions (8-4).
The Packers have allowed only 13 points each of the past two games after they gave up a whopping 153 points during the preceding four-game losing streak.
"With where we're at, every game is a must win," Matthews said.
And after missing time earlier in the season with a hamstring injury, Matthews doesn't feel compelled to sit anymore, no matter that his separated left shoulder left him to play with what he said was just one arm Sunday.
"It's tough, but you just try to weather the storm," Matthews said. "Obviously, you want to be out there for your brothers and teammates, have some sense of accountability."
Though Matthews had limited playing time and was noticeably absent from the stats sheet, his ability to play less than a week after he suffered the injury gave the defense a boost.
The Packers were without rookie Blake Martinez (knee) for a second straight game, so they moved Matthews inside to start alongside Ryan, who had missed most of the previous three games.
Matthews had been playing mostly at his natural spot of outside linebacker this season until Martinez was hurt.
"We're lucky to have a guy like Clay who, when someone's down, he can get back to the middle and do his job," Ryan said.
As the Packers look to get healthier with their defense, Matthews expects to be switching between outside and inside linebacker going down the stretch.
"I'm fine with that," said Matthews, who started exclusively inside last season. "We do a good job playing to my strengths as far as bringing some pressure, allowing me to get some one-on-one matchups and be a little more decisive as opposed to just sitting there and reading like a true inside 'backer.
"There obviously comes a time for that, but it is easy when we have a lead, playing inside linebacker is a lot more fun."
And the Packers know the importance of having Matthews on the field as they get ready to host the NFC West-leading Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.
"Hopefully, he can get some strength (in the shoulder) and work through it, and hopefully he's further ahead than where he was yesterday because, obviously, he was playing through a very tough situation," coach Mike McCarthy said.
NOTES: McCarthy didn't have an update Monday on the health of quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who played the game Sunday in the snowy conditions after he injured his hamstring in Green Bay's previous game. "I know after the game he felt pretty good," McCarthy said.
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