Despite the fact that Green Bay went 15-1 last season, star LB Clay Matthews had a relatively quiet year statistically.
He has certainly turned that around to start 2012. Two games into this season, Matthews has already recorded as many sacks (6) as he had the entire 2011 season. Matthews clearly has a shot at the single-season record of 22.5 if he continues to get to the QB at anything close to this rate.
Matthews pulled down San Francisco QB Alex Smith 2.5 times in a Week 1 loss, and did even better last Thursday, with a single-game career high of 3.5 sacks, against Chicago’s Jay Cutler.
This is not the first time that the former USC star has started fast out of the gate; Matthews had exactly 6 sacks after two games to start the 2010 season as well. In what would wind up being a Super Bowl season for the Packers, Matthews started the season by sacking Michael Vick of Philadelphia and Trent Edwards of Buffalo 3 times each in the first two weeks. However, in the final 14 games of the 2010 season, Matthews had just 7.5 more sacks, never recording more than 1.5 sacks in a single game the rest of the way.
With 35.5 career sacks, Matthews is tied for 42nd on the active-player NFL sack list, currently 6 behind future first-ballot Hall-of-Famer Ray Lewis (who has 1 so far in 2012).
Michael Strahan of the New York Giants holds the single-season NFL record, of 22.5 sacks, set in 2001. Strahan broke Mark Gastineau’s long-held mark of 22.
Sticking with the Sacks theme, the only active player in the top 15 all-time is 33-year old John Abraham; with 113 sacks he’s tied with Sean Jones for 15th place. Abraham, who is in his seventh season with Atlanta, is 8.5 sacks behind Clyde Simmons for 14th place. Abraham’s sack of Kansas City’s Matt Cassel in Week 1 put him in a tie with Jones.
- Pittsburgh D has work to do
Last season, the Pittsburgh Steelers run defense wasn’t stopping much of anyone in the early part of the season. Not surprisingly, though, Dick LeBeau & Co. got things turned around, and by season’s end, the Steelers finished a respectable 8th in the league (allowing an average of 99.8 YPG).
Although decent, the Steelers’ final numbers against the run in 2011 paled in comparison to their historically great dominance in 2010; in their Super Bowl season, Pittsburgh allowed 437 fewer rushing yards than the next best team.
Through two games this season, the Steelers have allowed an average of 92 rushing YPG, 11th-best in the league. Pittsburgh has been out-rushed in both of its games.
The team’s pass defense, which led the NFL a year ago by allowing just 171.9 YPG, is sitting in 5th place at 184.5 – and the Steelers secondary has yet to intercept a pass (against Peyton Manning and Mark Sanchez). The Houston defense is leading the league by allowing just 124 passing YPG so far.
Stat of the Week: The Steelers have not allowed 300 passing yards in a regular-season game since Tom Brady gouged them for 350 in November 2010 (a span of 25 games).
*Of course, Tim Tebow threw for 316 yards against Pittsburgh in Denver’s shocking playoff win last season.
- Brees getting closer
With TD passes in each of the first two games, New Orleans QB Drew Brees has now thrown a TD pass in 45 consecutive games. Brees trails record-holder Johnny Unitas by 2 games. The Saints face Kansas City and Green Bay the next two weeks. The Chiefs have already yielded 5 TD passes in the early going, while the Packers have given up 3.
Brees didn’t waste any time on Sunday, tossing a scoring pass in the first quarter (although he did not throw another one the rest of the game).
- Losing ground
One factor in New England’s surprisingly low-scoring loss at home against Arizona was the number of negative offensive plays for the Patriots.
- Tom Brady was sacked 4 times
- Brady also threw 1 INT
- New England ball-carriers were tackled for a loss 5 times
Add in the fact that New England ball-carriers were tackled for a loss 5 times in Week 1, and it’s obvious the offensive line is not playing as well as it could, NE backs are not making enough guys miss, and maybe even the play calling is suspect.
It won’t get any easier in Week 3, as the Patriots square off against Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens.
- Sudden swings
Seven teams increased their yardage output by more than 100 yards between Week 1 and Week 2, led by the New York Giants’ 335-yard improvement.
New York Giants: 269 / 604 = +335 offensive yards
Cleveland: 210 / 439 = +229
St. Louis: 251 / 451 = +200
Miami: 275 / 452 = +177
Carolina: 301 / 463 = +162
Conversely, no team had a sharper drop-off between Weeks 1 & 2 in offensive production than the Chicago Bears:
Chicago: 428 / 168 = -260
Jacksonville: 355 / 117 = -238
New York Jets: 384 / 219 = -165
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