Joe Flacco won't have to worry about Clay Matthews. Aaron Rodgers, on the other hand, will get no such break against Terrell Suggs on Sunday.
The two Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks square off when Flacco and the defending champion Baltimore Ravens host Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
The Packers (2-2) suffered a blow when Matthews, their All-Pro outside linebacker, broke his right thumb during last Sunday's 22-9 victory over Detroit at Lambeau Field.
Coach Mike McCarthy said Wednesday that Matthews will miss at least a couple weeks and may have to play with a cast when he returns. Matthews, who also has been bothered by a hamstring injury, hurt his thumb on the final play of the third quarter when he sacked Matthew Stafford.
The fifth-year pro has led the Packers in sacks every season he's been in the league and has a team-high three in 2013.
"I mean, Clay Matthews is our best player on defense. But this is pro football," McCarthy said. "We've been down this road before. It's an excellent opportunity for others to step up and make plays."
Green Bay was already struggling against the pass, ranking 26th in the NFL with 288.8 passing yards allowed per game, and without the relentless Matthews will rely on linebackers Mike Neal and Nick Perry to help pressure Flacco. Neal, a converted defensive end, finished with a sack and six tackles against Detroit, while Perry, a first-round pick last year, had two sacks and five tackles.
"I think Mike Neal has made really good strides. I think you saw him play his best game (Sunday). I think you saw Nick Perry play his best game," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said Monday. "We need for Mike Neal and Nick Perry to be ready to play next week the way they played this week. Because they played their best football this week."
Safety Morgan Burnett's return from a hamstring injury should continue to help Green Bay's porous pass defense.
Baltimore (3-2) finally found its ground game in last Sunday's 26-23 win over Miami with a season-best 133 yards, but against a strong Green Bay run defense, Flacco may try winning the game through the air. The Ravens, though, have lost the only two games in which Flacco has thrown for over 300 yards.
His preferred target, wideout Torrey Smith, is the AFC leader with 556 receiving yards after finishing with 121 on six catches against the Dolphins.
Flacco was 19 of 32 for 269 yards and had one interception which was returned for a touchdown, but it was a much improved performance following his career-worst five picks in a loss at Buffalo a week earlier.
"Joe never gets fazed," coach John Harbaugh said of Flacco, who has been sacked 14 times. "He's not going to get rattled."
The reigning Super Bowl MVP's numbers are nowhere near those of Rodgers, who is second in the NFL with 1,331 passing yards and has nine touchdowns against three interceptions.
Rodgers was 20 of 30 for 274 yards last week, finishing with one TD and no picks, and now stares down a Baltimore pass rush coming off its strongest performance of the season.
Suggs had all three of his sacks in the final quarter against Miami, and Elvis Dumervil sacked Ryan Tannehill for a 5-yard loss in the final minute to push the Dolphins to the edge of field-goal range. Caleb Sturgis missed a 57-yard attempt with 33 seconds to go to hand the Ravens the victory.
Baltimore finished with six sacks and has 19 on the season, second-best in the league.
Suggs is Baltimore's career leader with 91 1/2 sacks and ranks fourth in the NFL this season with seven. With another one against the Packers, he'll set a franchise record with at least one sack in six straight games.
With four tackles against the Packers, Suggs will become the second-leading tackler in Ravens history with 722. Only Ray Lewis has more.
"I don't want to just be known as a pass rusher. I want to be known as a defender that can do more than just one thing," said Suggs, who turns 31 on Friday. "I don't want to just have a lot of sacks. I like to fill up the stat sheet."
Suggs may get his chance against Rodgers, who was sacked a league-high 51 times in 2012 and 11 this year. Suggs missed the Ravens' last matchup with Green Bay as Rodgers was sacked only once and threw for three TDs in the Packers' 27-14 victory in 2009.
Flacco was sacked twice by Matthews as part of one the worst games of his career, going 15 of 36 for 137 yards with three INTs.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved