Should We Support Clay Matthews’ Late Hit? All Green Bay Packers All the Time

I think everyone agrees Clay Matthews made a bone headed decision by trying to take down Colin Kaepernick on 3rd down; but deep down, especially after the miserable loss to the 49ers in the playoffs last year, we all cheered.  Admit it, you were happy when Colin Kaepernick hit the turf (I’ll admit it).  I’ll even wager some Packers fans kept cheering as Matthews and the rest of the defense got in the ensuing brawl.

This in my mind was a sort of collective validation for Packers fans, who were sick and tired of listening to the allegations of the Packers being a “soft” team and were looking for some example to show everyone otherwise.  On Green and Gold Today, surprisingly multiple callers chimed in that they had no problem with late hit and wouldn’t mind seeing Matthews do the same again.

To me this is a very dangerous slippery slope; it’s one thing to play aggressive and at the edge of the rules, it’s another thing to break them.  You simply have to look east to see what happens when a team takes it’s aggressiveness too far.

The Detroit Lions to become the first ever team in NFL history to go 0-16 after 7 years of catastrophically poor management by general manager Matt Millen.  Obviously with such a dumpster fire there was a clean sweep within the organization and the Lions ownership sought to bring in a new mentality to the team.  Starting with head coach Jim Schwartz, the Lions sought to be “tougher”, a team that wouldn’t be a push over and get back to being a relevant organization.  Sounds like a good plan, but ultimately I think it’s backfired; in the past couple seasons the Lions have been a far better team than their record suggests, which is directly due to their “toughness” literally losing them games.

Since Schwartz’s hiring, the Lions have perennially been one of the most penalized teams in the NFL and are now famous for their lack of control and abundance of head scratching personal fouls.  Ndamukong Suh has been voted as the dirtiest player in the NFL after multiple questionable hits and some very stupid mistakes including the EDS stomp, the Matt Schaub’s stomp and just last week the John Sullivan low block that apparently will cost him $100,000.

Even quarterback Matt Stafford has gotten into scraps with the other team, something that is unheard of for a starting quarterback.  Simply put theLions can’t get out of their own way, their tough mentality leads to bone headed decisions which ultimately bring the team down not only on the field but also the field of public perception.

You might be thinking, well the Lions are a complete mess, I trust that the Packers would be able to keep their players in check.  But in 1980’s the Packers were the Lions, a terrible team who’s only “strength” was being tough.  Sure the Packers were “tough” but weren’t winning games and looked more like losers who only bullied other people to get attention.

This is perhaps highlighted best by Charles Martin’s egregious late hit on quarterback Jim McMahon in 1986 that ultimately ended McMahon’s season.  Fans, who had already given up on the Packers winning that entire decade reveled in knocking out the star quarterback of the Chicago Bears, their most hated rival.  It’s taken almost 30 years, 2 Super Bowl wins and a consistent winning tradition of Mike McCarthy, Mike Sherman and Mike Holmgren to really erase that image.

However, I’m not completely criticizing the hit as I think it’s not just a one sided story.  Matthews was put in a difficult situation and in my opinion guessed wrong; Matthews literally has a split decision to figure out if Kaepernick is going to run out of bounds or try to dive for the 1st down.  Knowing that Kaepernick is a running quarterback and that getting the 1st down would essentially give the 49ers a touchdown, I’m actually a little surprised that Kaepernick didn’t try to dive to the sticks, in which case Matthews hit would have been legal and good defensive stop (maybe not clothesline him, but that’s a separate issue).

The second issue is that Matthews is probably trying to make a statement and rally the troops and show the rest of the league that the Packers aren’t a “soft” team and that every team with a running quarterback (read: RGIII), shouldn’t look to the playoff game as a game plan.  I think people are quick to forget that Matthews made multiple statements on his teams’ toughness (like stuffing the running back 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage)  and aside for the late hit I think he did a good job making the point that the defense will not be a weak point on this team.

I think in the end, we should support Matthews for his intentions but not for his actions (specifically the late hit).  I personally don’t think Matthews every went out on the field with the intention of purposefully hurting Kaepernick or any other player and I do think his aggressive mentality will be good for the defense.  However, players must always know not to cross that line between being aggressive and dirty and Matthews should not be appluaded for his late hit against Kaepernick.

If you want to applaud Matthews for being aggressive, applaud him for sacking Kaepernick 7 yards behind the line of scrimmage that ended the discussion of the 49ers running the read option, not for clotheslining Kaepernick.


Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s


72 thoughts on “Should We Support Clay Matthews’ Late Hit?

  1. I think we need to stop talking about this hit. Was dumb, he acknowledged it. But there was no intent to hurt. Nothing like the Sue (I know) hit which was the very definition of dirty!

    1. Chris is right, this is more about moving on than trying to paint it pretty. Matthews admission is enough to characterize a bad play.

      If Rodgers was on the other side of a late or dangerous hit we would not be happy. Stop Kaepernick on the field not on the sidelines.

  2. Easy. GB is not Detroit. No slippery slopes to worry about.

    The hit was brilliant. Did you notice how many times Kap took a knee vs the playoff game?!

    1. “GB is not Detroit”.

      GB was Detroit in the 1980s, Charles Martin made perhaps the dirtiest play of all professional football. It can happen again if the Packers allow it. Also, Kaepernick was sliding plenty of times before the hit so it’s not like it influenced him that much.

      1. The bottom line is Matthews has a squeaky clean image before that play. He was a little over enthusiast but that it. This is just another case of Harbargh whining and playing the refs. Staley did what he should have but wasn’t innocent. I’m tired of even talking about it and its even worse that we have to defend clay. GREAT PLAYER. Lets hope Suh gets a hold of Kap, he’ll show dirty!!!

        1. I agree, I have no problem with Suh killing Kaepernick (not my team). The thing I do have an issue with is fan’s encouraging dirty play because you’d be a fool to think that players don’t respond to what fans (their source of income) want.

  3. One boneheaded play in four years. If it continues, then we may have a problem. Detroit are punks coached by punks. They don’t see it as a problem and that is why they will be a loosing team again this year. No discipline.

    1. This is Matthews’ first personal foul penalty so I don’t think this is a trend or anything, but I think a lot of fans would be happy if it did. Players do know what’s going on outside the locker room and if they think they will become more popular for playing dirty some will do it.

  4. I support Clay, but I do not support the use of the term “clothesline.” This was not a clothesline hit. A clothesline is when you throw your outstretcthed arms directly into someone’s neck. That did not happen.

    Using that term does nothing more than lend credence to the WWE type football fans who are trying to sensationalize one play and who are characterizing Clay as a dirty player for one play in four years.

    It was a late hit. Out of bounds. But it was not a clothesline. This might seem petty, but I’m sick of people making more out of this than it was.

    1. I’ll admit I don’t watch wrestling or any other sport where clotheslining is a common occurance so if everyone thinks it wasn’t a clothesline, then it’s not a clothesline. However, the reason I used the term is because Harbaugh did, and really Matthews dragging Kaepernick by the neck only enhances the image that it was a dirty play.

      1. I don’t recommend using the terms Harbaugh did. That guy never, ever, saw a penalty called against his own team he didn’t think was wrong. His judgement is so one sided I expect him to tilt and fall over.

        As others have said, it wasn’t a good play, it wasn’t a smart play. Matthews admitted it himself. That play should not be applauded and it should also be taken in the context of one unwise play in several years. Doesn’t make Matthews a dirty player and it doesn’t make his hit a clothesline because Harbaugh says it was.

        Did you also note, if you watch a replay of it, that Kaepernick adjusts his angle to the out of bounds line at the last moment. His original line would have meant he would have been in-bounds when Matthews hit. I’m not saying that totally excuses Matthews, its just an extra layer that shows things are perhaps not quite as clear cut as some think..

        1. The issue I have with the hit is leaving his feet. That’s not fundamental football. Drive through the ball carrier. Going up near the head made it a much easier call for the refs. Had CMIII driven through Kaep’s hip…maybe they let it go. Okay, probably not. But he did no favors to himself or his team in a league that is head (un?) conscious.

  5. It’s evident you need to take a sec, go back, and actually watch the play Hobbes.

    By my count, you referred to the hit as a “clothesline” twice, it was anything but. Clay didn’t wrap up around his neck, rather it was his chest, go back and watch. I’m not trying to be a Dick here, but you’re not the first writer I’ve read about the hit that made that mistake. And it’s a rather large mistake IMO. I could see how at first glance, in real time, one could think it was, but it wasn’t close.

    Clay hit the guy out of bounds, he deserved a 15 yard penalty to be sure, but the term “clothesline” implies he went high, and… He didn’t.

    As for the hit… Meh. I don’t want to see him make a habit of it as he is so good, I would hate to see his reputation sullied, but I surely wasn’t pissed about the hit. I think he made a snap decision, and was wrong, no malice intended. And I don’t mind these “Mobile QB’s” thinking twice about pulling down and taking off against our D.

    1. Like I mentioned above, it’s called a clothesline hit because Harbaugh called it as such. Obviously he’s trolling Matthews (especially about the open handed slap, my take is Matthews just bitch slapped your left tackle) but that’s what the media is calling it right now.

    1. Not a clothesline at all. Clay wrapped up Colin’s upper torso during the tackle and takedown. When they hit the turf and started sliding along the sidelines, Clay’s arms slid up Colin’s body and his hand ended up hooked below Colin’s chin (on his neck).

      That is a far cry from a clothesline, where you accelerate with your arm outstretched and make forceful contact with the target’s neck/throat as if he was running and unexpectedly ran into a neck-high clothesline he didn’t see coming (hence the name).

      Absolutely NOT a clothesline; You and others in the media have fallen prey to Harbaugh’s PR bullshit- exactly what he wanted.

      1. BTW, I have absolutely, actually both run into a clothesline at neck height while running full speed at dusk, and also been the recipient of more than one “wrestling style” clothesline during my day. I kind of think I speak from a position of experience on this topic 🙂

  6. Can’t we just move on! It’s football. The game was on the line. Things happen. Hasn’t Harbaugh done enough whining for us all?

    1. Everyone is still hyped about it; I think a lot of fans had this game circled during the offseason because of the playoff loss. Since the Packer didn’t win, everyone is still going to talk about it. Human nature.

  7. Is there a player in the NFL that spends more time in the horizontal 3 feet above the ground than CMIII?

    He made a decision, commited to it, and because CK went OB, it was a late hit and duly penalized. If CK stays inbounds and tries to dance the sideline for the extra 2 yards, we’d all be talking about what a ‘lights out’ play CMIII made.

    I’d rather see errors of commission, than omission.

    1. And it wasn’t a ‘clothesline’. His arms started around the shoulders at the hit and as he and CK went to the ground his momentum pulled his arms up over his shoulders.

  8. Yes it was a dumb play & leave it at that. As far as us overcoming our “soft” label….you don’t do by running your mouth after the play is over, you do it by putting some “pad popping” hits on players who have the ball. Watching a number of games around the league the first week, we are still below the league norm in that category (which usually comes from the LBers & DB’s).

  9. To answer your question, Thomas:

    Yes. Support Matthews’ hit.

    Err on the side of tough, physical football so that Kaep, Wilson, RG3, Vick, et al. will err on the side of caution when they play us. We’ve got too professional of an organization to worry about regressing back to the Forrest Gregg era; MM and TT won’t allow that.

    1. I will say I think there is a point where the coaching staff has no control over the mentality of a team. Everyone inside the Lions organization is desperately trying to get rid of the dirty mentality, but players have gotten used to the idea of playing dirty and perhaps more importantly just don’t care anymore. It’s obvious Suh has no issue playing dirty and the coaches can’t stop him. It’s important that the coaching staff controls the problem while it’s small.

      1. I definitely see your point. In a game of controlled violence such as football, control and violence must exist in equilibrium for a team to succeed.

        I think MM possesses much greater powers of control than Jim Schwartz does. I trust him to keep us on an even keel while we play with a little more edge.

        1. I think ultimately, Schwartz felt initially that “aggressiveness” was worth the trouble in the beginning, especially when the Lions were terrible. Now, they have a talented team and the aggressiveness has sunken in too deeply to just stop quickly. I will also say since McCarthy is a offensive coach and Schwartz is a defensive coach, McCarthy is a lot less tolerant just by the nature of his team philosophy i.e. offense first.

  10. I love to see aggressive, hard-hitting play from our defense. In that sense you’ve got to suck up some of these plays in order to establish that level of play. Just like when Al Harris and CWood were manning the corners: you knew there would be 3-5 defensive holding calls per game, but because they could hold their own man-up with just about anyone, those penalties were the price you paid for the freedom to do other things with your D.

    What I don’t like is what seemed to be a player so hell-bent on putting a hit on Kaepernick that he didn’t use his head. It took years to get out of the stupid, undisciplined penalties that we saw early in the McCarthy era. I don’t want the leader of our defense setting that kind of tone.

    1. I think there’s a big difference between a holding penalty and a unsportsman like conduct penalty. I usually have no problem with a late hit or a QB hit to the head penalty since they’re usually pretty ticky-tacky, but hitting a QB when he’s out of bounds is totally different level.

  11. I agree 100%, but let’s get something straight here…Clay Matthews didn’t ”Clothesline” Kaepernick, he dived and put his arm around his chest area, not neck area.

    1. Like I said before, I have no idea what a proper clothesline looks like. I called it a clothesline because that’s what Harbaugh called it and that’s what the media is calling it.

  12. I loved the aggressiveness. And frankly, I didn’t really mind the penalty. As many have pointed out, it’s hard to know when these mobile quarterbacks are going to stay in bounds and when they are going to run out. In fact, some of them have even taken advantage of that by pretending to head out of bounds, then keep going forward when the defensive players let up to avoid the penalty.

    CM3 leaping at Kaepernick was the poor decision in that tackle… Launching yourself at any ball carrier is automatically a penalty.

    But again, I liked the tone it set.

    1. Didn’t Joe Montana do something like that and gain another 20 yards because the defender didn’t hit him???

    2. Launching is the most ridiculous penalty in football.

      The second a player leaves his feet, he has already stopped accelerating and while flying towards his target, he is already decelerating. On that same front, because the tackler is not planted to the firm playing surface, the tackler’s body can actually absorb more of the impact to the ball carrier than if he had his feet on the ground and was able to brace himself or even apply more forward momentum/force to the ball carrier.

      In short, you are better off being tackled by an airborn tackler than on with his feet on the ground.

      Launching is a backward rule that was created by people reacting emotionally to the look of hits, as opposed to rationally by people taking into consideration the physics of a hit.

      1. Agreed there… but it’s still a well-known penalty that is pretty clear in its enforcement.

  13. I’m confused. Is this what we are asking… “Should we support a guy making a play that was undeniably and self-evidently a personal foul which bears the penalty of 15 yards and an automatic first down?”

    Really? Is this that the question we’re asking? Do we support obvious personal fouls, especially those which negate a good defensive stop on third down in a goal-to-go situation and give the other team another opportunity to score a touchdown?

    Is that the question that we’re asking?

    Why are the terminology police arguing about whether or not this could be called a “clothesline?” Who the heck cares? It was obviously a personal foul whatever you want to call it.

    And why are so many people yammering on about “toughness?” Does committing a personal foul somehow make you a tough guy? Or is it just as likely to make you a cowardly cheap shot artist?

    It was a personal foul. Everyone can try to rationalize it however they want, but no, I don’t support personal fouls.

    1. To answer your question: A lot of people are supporting Matthews for the late hit and are advocating that he does so again, hence my article. Also a lot of people do equate the penalty to “toughness”, like how it sets a tone for the defense etc.

      I agree with you, fans should not support the personal foul.

      1. THobbes, I agree with you that “a lot of people” would like these kinds of hits to continue, and that they indicate ‘toughness.’ And in this regard I would also point out that “a lot of people” are stupid.

        Suh is not tough because he stomps on players after the whistle.

        If you want to be tough, stone the fullback in the hole and shove him pads and all down the ballcarrier’s throat. Then you will be tough.

        Players who bring huge penalties to their team are stupid, not tough. And this penalty resulted in a Niner touchdown. Well, yeehah for ‘toughness,’ huh?

        1. I agree, but not everyone thinks like you do, and stupid or not, if players start noticing that they get more attention when they play dirty, you bet they are going to play dirtier. NFL professions are so short that players will do whatever it takes to remain relevant.

  14. Clay is not a dirty player. I’ve seen nothing in the past that would even suggest it. He however was very pumped to get after Kaeperdick’s ass and drill him. Hes was sickof hearing all of season long, that the Packers gave up close to 600 yards in the playoff game and that the Packers defense was soft. That combined with the fact that clay is a football animal contributed to his over aggressiveness, which I love. it was definitely not a smart play, especially in those circumstances, that close to the goal line on 3rd down but, football is a game of emotion and things happen in the heat of battle.

    it’s Wednesday and I’m finally over this loss and am ready to move on with the rest of the season. I think we have it in approved football team but, we definitely need Burnett back (and Hayward). TT has left this team thin at the safety position and now it’s haunting them. I felt heading into the season that Burnett, aside from Matthews, was the one player this defense could ill afford not lose because of the lack of talent next to him.that showed up on Sunday.

    1. The question really becomes, how many plays like this have to happen before Matthews gets labeled as a dirty player? Going back to Suh, I think a lot of people were confused about the EDS stomp, sure his explanation was complete joke and I’m not sure even his teammates bought it, but it was his first egregious penalty and everyone was willing to write it off as a dumb mistake. Now add to that the Schaub stomp and now the $100K Sullivan low block and Suh will always be known as a dirty player. This is Matthews’ first personal foul so anyone who calls him a dirty player is probably just goading, but it doesn’t take many for that to change.

      1. @ Thomas Hobbes Your definition of egregious has erosion of fact all over it! Cognitive dissonance is your rationalization to a high tackle that was launched inside the field and carried out of play. Matthews should of held back no doubt, but you are either unaware of the game you are writing about, or do not have the years to justify such an obvious slant to your opinion. Grow some balls and try not to emasculate this game anymore than R. Goodell has already! Comparing a legal hit (other than out of bounds!) to A. Suh’s antics is bordering on hyperbole or worse. Those two players are at opposite ends of the “ethics” spectrum shit for brains . . .

        1. While I agree with your perspective, you really need to learn how to address people with respect.

          You can be as right as can be, but if you are a disrespectful punk while conveying your message, who will listen?

          1. I appreciate your perspective, and with that I will say that normally I would not present my opinion with such “verve” however when T Hobbes stirs the pot with such recklessness, I will call him on it. There is absolutely no reason for him to throw mud all over Matthews mistake with such acrimony and overt Suh comparisons, I was just giving back the love . . .

            1. I am not comparing Suh to Matthews, I’m saying that Matthews can become Suh if he lets himself, just like the Packers can become the Lions if they let themselves. The Packers are a great team with a long tradition, but that doesn’t somehow make them immune to becoming dirty. The Packers are just as vulnerable as any other team in that regard.

        2. Everyone starts somewhere. In regards to Suh, there were plenty of questionable quarterback hits that most people were will to forgive as “overly aggressive” before Suh decided to start stomping on everyone he could. I agree that Suh and Matthews are on opposite ends of the “ethics” spectrum but I am arguing that it doesn’t take very much for Matthews to end up where Suh is.

  15. “I called it a clothesline because that’s what Harbaugh called it”

    If Harbaugh told you to jump off a bridge, would you do it?

    1. It’s being referred to as a clothesline hit because Harbaugh called it as such. When I say “clothesline hit” you instantly know what I’m talking about, so for me I stand by its usage, even if it’s not technically correct. Frankly I’m quite surprised that so many people are so argumentative about it being a clothesline hit or not, personally I don’t really care if you want to call it a tackle up high or whatever that’s fine by me.

      1. Thomas,

        Hitting a guy as he’s on the sideline and going out of bounds is a matter of reaction time, and in some cases, poor judgement, but it’s not inherently intended to injure in the great majority of cases. It is for the most part, the same thing as tackling a guy in bounds, except it’s against the rules.

        The difference with calling it a clothes lining is that it’s absolutely illegal, it is blatant, and it is dangerous. The intent when clotheslining a player is to hurt or injure them. To clothesline a player is dirty, period.

        So while you take this as a simple case of arguing semantics, others take great exception to it. There is implication in the term “clotheline”.

        This would be like freely juggling the expression “getting laid”- which is clearly low brow compared to “making love” but not necessarily a completely negative connotation – with the word “rape”… “Getting laid” is certainly under no circumstances the same thing as “raping”, and you’d be upset and insistent on clarification if people were going around saying you “raped” a person on Sunday.

        1. I think there’s two different issues at play.

          1) was it or was it not a clothesline: The consensus based on the comments is that no it was not, and like I said I have no problem with that and I’m not arguing that it was. I don’t watch wrestling or any other sport where clotheslining is a common occurrence so I really don’t know.

          2) The semantics of “clotheslining”: You bet Harbaugh choose his words carefully, he totally intended his statement to carry that negative connotation because he thinks Matthews was targeting Kaepernick. The reason I used the term is because that’s what it’s being called, when i say “clothesline” tackle you immediately know what I’m talking about. That’s what its being called, correct or not.

  16. Kaepernick is a great runner. If Matthews doesn’t him and he (Kaepernick) turns up field and scores then we are complaining about the D being soft. I will take a hit like that and the penalty every time. The penalty we should be upset with was the “hands to the face” that cost the Packers a 10 yard run. That didn’t make sense.

    1. I agree, hence why I did say I felt Matthews was justified and basically guessed wrong for exactly the same reason you mentioned.

    2. I’ve thrown this idea on this site before…
      Will this penalty help the team in the long run? Did other QBs see that play?

      1. Hard to say, I’m sure some teams are hoping the Packers start playing dirty cause usually that helps the other team (see Lions). I’d say teams with running quarterbacks saw how the Packers stopped the run and stopped the read option more than the late hit. Overall, that’s not a bad thing.

        1. So, if RGIII has the corner and 10 yards to go for a first down, sees CMIII coming, he’ll be thinking, and that’s often all it takes.

  17. The play was dumb. Defensemen haven’t been able to launch themselves at QB’S for at least a decade. It turned a much needed stop after the fumble into a TD. If the idea was to send some sort of message for the remainder of the game, handing the 49ers four points was too high a price to pay. After burning the first two possessions with no positive results, tying the game, then handing the ball over, the last thing that was needed was stupid play. The Packers good enough to best many teams stringing three and outs with turnovers and then unnecessary penalties.

    1. I agree. If you take the whole play out of the game, I still think fans could say the Packers played a “tough” game by stopping the read option and basically negating the 49ers running game. I still don’t think fans should be supporting the late hit.

  18. I think its about we had a player step up and define the Packers as a physical football team. remember the past when we had played that demanded the best from the rest and set a standard for physical play. no i’m not condoning the hit out of bounds, but i’m glad he had the balls to stand in Kap’s face and say I will hit you as often as I can. the old saying “The Quarterback must go down, and he must go down HARD still holds true.

  19. Matthews made a bad play. End of story. He is not a dirty player and I do not expect him to continue to make bad plays. For those of you who either support this or are arguing over whether or not it is a clothesline, just think how you would feel if SF or any other team made that hit on Rodgers. You would all be screaming clothesline, suspension, dirty player, etc… Move on to the Washington game. Case closed! Thanks, Since’61

  20. IT WAS NOT A CLOTHESLINE HIT but it’s possible he could get suspended 1 game because of the combination of the late hit and his talk leading up to the game. That is what hairball is angling for. He’s the biggest crybaby yet@! I’d like to kick his ass myself.

    1. I doubt he would be suspended mostly because this is his first unsportsmanlike penalty. So far there’s no news that he’s even been fined (which usually comes on Tuesday), so if he isn’t fined it’s unlikely that he’d be suspended. Plus Suh didn’t get suspended for his low block (this is his 3rd major penalty).

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