Three and Out: Cox returns, pass rush needed, Kap's trusted targets
Clay Matthews, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, led the Packers in the regular season with 7 ½ sacks in 11 games. (USATSI)
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The 49ers knocked the Green Bay Packers from the playoffs last season. But things between the two teams got particularly interesting during and after the rematch to open this season.
For the second season in a row, the 49ers will open both the regular season and playoffs against the Packers. The 49ers have won the previous three meetings.
“I think they’re an excellent football team and we have great respect for them as a team,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said Monday. “I don’t know about any other way to determine it than that, but that’s what it is.”
However, one of the key figures in what has become a heated matchup will not be on the field for Sunday’s NFC wild-card playoff game at Lambeau Field.
Outside linebacker Clay Matthews underwent his second surgery last week on a broken right thumb and will not play against the 49ers, Packers coach Mike McCarthy said on Monday.
McCarthy was asked if the Packers would place him on injured reserve and add a player to their 53-man roster.
“Right now he’s out for this week and that’s really what we’re focused on,” McCarthy said.
Matthews, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, led the Packers in the regular season with 7 ½ sacks in 11 games.
He was fined $15,000 for his flying hit of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick out of bounds during the Sept. 8 meeting at Candlestick Park, which the 49ers won 34-28. Harbaugh called Matthews’ hit a “clothesline” and a “cheapshot.”
Earlier that week, Matthews said, in reference to Kaepernick, that the best way to slow down a running quarterback was to hit him. Harbaugh called it tough talk and suggested the Packers were targeting Kaepernick.
Afterward, Kaepernick said of the Packers, “If intimidation is your game plan, I hope you have a better one.”
During the melee that followed the play, Matthews appeared to strike 49ers left tackle Joe Staley twice after Staley rushed to Kaepernick’s defense. Matthews’ actions drew the ridicule of Harbaugh a day later.
“I could see two punches thrown to Joe’s head -- well, one punch and one open slap, which . . . if you’re going to go to the face, come with some knuckles,” Harbaugh said. “I think that young man works very hard on being a tough guy. He’ll have some repairing to do to his image after the slap.”
After the NFL fined Matthews, 49ers guard Alex Boone was asked what kind of penalty Matthews deserved.
"Probably punch him in the face," Boone said. "I don't want his money."