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Offensive Line Looking To Bounce Back

Posted Dec 16, 2010

Green Bay knows it will need to perform better offensively this Sunday against one of the top teams in the league in New England, and count the offensive line as a group looking to redeem itself after struggling last Sunday against the Lions.

The three-point output by the Packers at Detroit was the lowest since a 35-0 loss to New England on Nov. 19, 2006, and included the second-lowest yardage total of the season with 258; 13 first downs, which matched a season low; a 16.7-percent conversion rate (2-of-12) on third down; and three turnovers by a Green Bay team that had given the ball away once in the previous five games. As offensive coordinator Joe Philbin was quick to point out, it was a collective effort that contributed to those numbers from the offense, but it was clear from the linemen this week that they were disappointed in their showing. 

"I don't think you could talk to any of the offensive linemen that aren't upset about it," tackle Bryan Bulaga said. "You can be hard on yourself about it for a couple of days, but it's a new week, new game, new opponent, and we've got to focus in on what the task is at hand.

"We've got to remember what happened, but we need to correct it and move on and get ready for the opponent at hand. We know the bad performance that happened last week, but we need to get better this week."

With starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers not participating on Thursday for the second straight day due to the concussion he sustained at Detroit, whom the line will be protecting on Sunday night remains a question. If Rodgers isn't cleared to play, third-year signal-caller Matt Flynn will be making his first pro start.

Being able to run the ball effectively is a priority every week, but it probably takes on even greater importance if Flynn, who has thrown just 46 career passes as a pro, is under center. Last week the Packers picked up 66 yards on 20 carries, with the three running backs, Brandon Jackson, James Starks and Dimitri Nance, accounting for just 31 yards on 15 carries (2.1 avg.) between them.

"I think it is helpful (to establish the run), plus when you throw in the opponent that you are playing and their ability to score points," Philbin said. "I think if we can maintain possession of the football, stay on the field and put together some good drives that maybe consume a little bit of the clock, I think that's probably in everybody's best interest.

"Certainly for Matt, if he is the guy that in fact is playing, then you don't want to put the whole game on a young guy's shoulders. Balance would certainly be a benefit."

Opposing offenses have passed more than 60 percent of the time against New England this year, but that is probably as much a product of how games have gone against the high-scoring Patriots (No. 1 at 31.9 points per game). New England is allowing 4.2 yards per carry (No. 16 in the NFL), but in seven of the 13 games, the opposition has run the ball 25 times or less.

In the Patriots' two losses this season, road games at the N.Y. Jets and Cleveland, the Jets and Browns combined for 366 yards on the ground on 74 carries (4.8 avg.), an average of 183 rushing yards per game. That is almost double what New England has allowed in its 11 wins (95.5 rushing yards per game), and in both of those games the Patriots lost the time-of-possession battle, including a dominating performance by Cleveland in which the Browns controlled the ball for more than 38 minutes in their Week 9 victory.

"The (Patriots) have been playing so well as of late," Philbin said. "They have gotten a lead and that can make you a little one-dimensional and get you out of your rhythm a little bit offensively and put extra pressure on you.

"We've told our guys part of the big thing this week is we've got to stay on schedule. We had way too many negative-yardage plays last week. We've got to minimize those and we've got to move the chains. It's a heck of a lot easier to move the chains when you're not in second-and-17 and third-and-14, and that has to happen."

Rodgers and Flynn were each sacked twice last Sunday in Detroit, and of the 15 runs from the running-back group, 11 went for 2 yards or fewer, with four of them losing yardage.

"Every week we want to run the ball," said T.J. Lang, who filled in at left guard for an injured Daryn Colledge in the second half at Detroit. "That's one of our main goals. Last week we kind of took a step back.

"It doesn't matter what play is called, we need to run the ball and we need to pass-protect better. Those are two things where last week we were losing too many one-on-one matchups. We addressed it Monday and we're moving on from it. We're correcting those mistakes. We're going to get out there and do our best to win the one-one-matchups and run the ball and also give Matt time back there to make plays with his arm."

In a six-game span prior to the Detroit loss, five of them wins, the Packers averaged over 370 yards a game and more than 100 on the ground while turning the ball over just three times. The line is determined to show that is the identity of the offense, and an opportunity to do so comes Sunday night in Foxborough.

"We're trying to prove that (Detroit) was an anomaly and not who we are," said Colledge, who was limited on Thursday because of a knee injury but remains hopeful for Sunday's game. "We've played good football. The offensive line has actually played well this season. There's complaints about the running game, but overall we feel like we've done some good things, and it's time to get that back on track.

"I think everybody's got a renewed sense of 'back to work' this week, and let's go out and prove some people wrong, because I know there's a lot of doubters out there."

Additional coverage - Dec. 16

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