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As in hoops or pingpong, Matthews boys ready to 'get after it' Sunday

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Barnwell previews championship Sunday

Bill Barnwell speaks with Scott Van Pelt about the high-level play from both Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan heading into the NFC Championship Game and what the Steelers need to do to upset the Patriots for the AFC title.

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Jake Matthews is six years younger than his cousin, Clay Matthews III. So they didn’t exactly grow up competing against each other all the time.

But of course, Jake said, those pickup basketball games and pingpong battles would get awfully spirited whenever the family got together.

So just imagine what it will be like when they face off Sunday with a trip to the Super Bowl at stake.

“It kind of runs in the whole family in everything we do. We like to get after it,” said Jake, the third-year left tackle for the Atlanta Falcons who will match up often against Clay, a top pass-rusher for the Green Bay Packers.

“Whether it’s games of basketball or playing pingpong or whatever it is, we’re trying to find a way to win. That’s what Sunday’s gonna be like,” Jake said. “The best way to describe [my feelings] is just excited. He’s a great player, they’ve got a great defense, and I know we have a great offense. So I’m looking forward to it.”

Football has been the family business for three generations of Matthews -- and business has been awfully good.

It started with Jake and Clay’s grandfather, Clay Sr., who played for the San Francisco 49ers in the 1950s. Then came brothers Bruce and Clay Jr., who played 19 years each in the NFL -- with Bruce landing in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Then Clay’s sons Clay III and Casey and Bruce’s sons Kevin and Jake all reached the NFL. Bruce’s son Mike was in training camp with the Cleveland Browns earlier this year, and youngest son Luke is a highly touted high school player.

But Sunday will mark a new milestone for the family.

Bruce and Clay Jr. faced each other 23 times, according to a 2014 ESPN feature on the “first family” of pro football. And Jake and Clay faced off once before -- with Clay getting a sack against him and the Packers winning 43-37 on Monday Night Football in 2014.

But this will be the first “Matthews Bowl” played in a conference championship game -- and if Jake wins, he'll get to play Super Bowl LI in hometown Houston, where Bruce played so many years for the Oilers.

“Talking to my dad, he was telling me it took him, I think it was 13 or 14 years before he made it to his first conference championship game [actually 17 years],” Jake said. “I made it in my third, so he kind of laughed and gave me a hard time about that. But it’s exciting ... and we’ve earned it.”

Jake said he expects about 10 family members in the Georgia Dome on Sunday, including Bruce.

And he expects it to be a lot of fun -- as long as the Falcons win.