Packers-Falcons matchup of the day: Thursday

Posted Oct. 06, 2011 @ 3:45 p.m.
Posted By Dan Arkush

PFW executive editor and resident Packers expert Dan Arkush presents the third of five key matchups in advance of the Packers' Week Five game against the Falcons at the Georgia Dome Sunday evening. 

Packers pass rush vs. Falcons offensive line

With neither Green Bay's pass rushers nor the Falcons' front wall performing real well the first quarter of the season, something's got to give in this matchup. The Packers' inability to get to opposing QBs has been as big a reason as any for the team's 31st-ranked pass defense, with nobody besides Clay Matthews generating any real consistent pressure. Matthews' numbers tell a different story (only one sack), but he continues to make things happen for his fellow defenders and remains a major force to be reckoned with. Matthews had yet to practice this week at this writing, opting to rest his tender quadriceps, which has been standard operating procedure the first month of the season

Atlanta's offensive line was a major liability in the first three games, allowing 13 sacks, before yielding zero sacks in the loss last week to Seattle. A particularly weak link has been left tackle, where Sam Baker has struggled in pass protection, trying to get by with more finesse than force.

The Falcons' O-line received a rude awakening from the Packers' pass rush the last time Green Bay and Atlanta met up in the divisional round of the 2010 playoffs. In that 48-21 rout of the Falcons, the Packers registered five sacks, including a pair by Matthews, who also had a fumble recovery.

The Packers' pass rush could receive a potential boost from OLB Frank Zombo, who could be ready for his first action this season after being out with a fractured shoulder blade. Atlanta's line also better pay attention to CB Jarrett Bush blitzing from the slot in dime situations, something he does exceedingly well.

Steady Falcons C Todd McClure has a tender knee (check status). The starting guards are Garrett Reynolds on the right side and Justin Blalock on the left side. Reynolds has stepped in for Harvey Dahl, who signed with the Rams. Inactive every game last season, Reynolds has great size (6-foot-7) but lacks leverage and athleticism. Blalock is a classic mauler who holds his own. ORT Tyson Clabo is another lineman with great size who plays above his limitations. Clabo has slow feet and tends to struggle with edge rushers as quick and as explosive as Matthews.