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Clay Matthews has to change to stop read-option quarterbacks

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Kaepernick scrambles away from Green Bay Packers Neal and Matthews in their NFL NFC Divisional playoff football game in San Francisco

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (L) scrambles away from Green Bay Packers Mike Neal (C) and Clay Matthews (R) during the second quarter in their NFL NFC Divisional playoff football game in San Francisco, California January 12, 2013. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)


The success of read-option quarterbacks in the NFL is forcing Packers linebacker Clay Matthews to alter the way he plays.

Matthews said on ESPN that his preference is to fire off the ball and fly toward the quarterback at the snap. But after 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick employed a read-option attack to the tune of 181 rushing yards and 263 passing yards in a playoff win over the Packers, Matthews said he has had to learn a new approach.

“I like to get after it. I like to just be going for it, getting after the quarterback,” Matthews said. “With this, it’s the complete opposite. You have to sit there and play pattycake with the tackle, making sure the quarterback doesn’t escape the pocket. You have to read and make sure who’s taking the ball, who’s not. It’s difficult for me to just kind of sit back, especially when Kaepernick was having such success throwing the ball that game, too, which caught us by surprise.”

Matthews said that after working on it this offseason, the Packers’ defense is confident in its ability to stop read-option quarterbacks going forward.

“With the game plan we have, we feel good about going into the season, especially seeing a few of these teams with these read-option, pistol-style quarterbacks,” Matthews said.

The Packers don’t have to worry about most teams doing what the 49ers did to them because most teams don’t have the 49ers’ personnel. It’s not like Jay Cutler, Christian Ponder and Matthew Stafford are going to run for 181 yards against the Packers. But when they play the 49ers, the Packers will need to be a whole lot better on defense than they were last time.