GREEN BAY, Wis. -- If the broken thumb outside linebacker Clay Matthews sustained on Sunday knocks him out of action for any significant length of time, then the Green Bay Packers will need Mike Neal and Nick Perry to keep churning out performances like they had against the Detroit Lions.
Individually, both Neal and Perry turned in the best performances of their careers Sunday’s 22-9 victory at Lambeau Field.
Together, they combined for 11 tackles and three sacks and perhaps more importantly gave the Packers some hope that their pass rush won’t disappear if Matthews has to miss some time.
Perry was benched in favor of Neal, a converted defensive end, to start at left outside linebacker on Sunday, but responded with the first two-sack game of his career.
“He definitely was productive,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said of Perry. “Had a lot of opportunities today.”
Some of those came after Matthews dropped out after his injury on the final play of the third quarter, when he sacked quarterback Matthew Stafford. Matthews appeared to catch his right hand in an awkward position. When he came off the field following the sack, he used his left hand to unbuckle his chin strap from the right side of his helmet.
Perry left the game briefly because of an ankle injury in the fourth quarter but returned to record his second sack, which also caused a Stafford fumble that the Lions recovered.
Though Neal continues to take some reps as a defensive lineman, his role as an outside linebacker has expanded. He was credited with six tackles and a sack in what was perhaps the most complete game of his career.
“I don’t even know how many tackles I had, but I just know I kept hearing my name called,” Neal said. “So, it was enough. I just need to keep that up and keep that production coming.”
Four of the Packers’ five sacks came from the outside linebacker trio of Matthews, Neal and Perry. Inside linebacker Brad Jones had the other. Before Sunday’s game, the Lions had allowed only three sacks all season.
“Five sacks is great for us,” Neal said. “Especially from an outside linebacker group, you look for that.”