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Mike Spofford

Mike Spofford has worked as a sportswriter in Wisconsin since 1995 and has been a packers.com staff writer since 2006. He has covered the Packers' last two Super Bowl appearances, XXXII and XLV.

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Game notes: Bulaga injury may force juggling on OL

Posted Dec 18, 2011

KANSAS CITY – The Packers finally got back to the starting five they’ve employed most frequently on the offensive line this season, but it barely lasted a half.

Right tackle Bryan Bulaga left the 19-14 loss at Arrowhead Stadium early in the third quarter with a knee sprain, which prompted rookie Derek Sherrod to come off the bench and take his place.

Only Sherrod then broke a leg early in the fourth quarter, as Kansas City defensive end Tamba Hali dove at quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Hali’s lower body whipped into Sherrod’s leg. That led to change at two positions as left guard T.J. Lang moved out to right tackle and Evan Dietrich-Smith took over for Lang at left guard.

“Everybody has to deal with it at some point,” left tackle Marshall Newhouse said of adjusting on the fly. “We just have to deal with it now.”

The Packers had just gotten right guard Josh Sitton back from a knee injury after missing the past two games. Sitton’s return sent Dietrich-Smith back to his reserve role. The group (left to right) of Newhouse, Lang, Scott Wells, Sitton and Bulaga had started six straight games through Thanksgiving, the most common starting group of the season.

How the Packers line up the rest of the way will depend on the severity of Bulaga’s injury this time, and where veteran left tackle Chad Clifton is in his recovery from hamstring and back injuries. Bulaga sprained a knee back in Week 3 at Chicago and missed two games. His absence then, coupled with Clifton going down in Week 5 in Atlanta, led to the first instance the Packers used Newhouse at left tackle and Sherrod at right tackle this season.

If Bulaga has to miss time and Clifton isn’t ready to return, the Packers most likely will line up next week the way they finished Sunday’s game, with Lang at right tackle and Dietrich-Smith at left guard. In that case, another backup tackle might have to be added to the active roster.

No help: All through pregame, Mason Crosby’s kicks in that direction had been blown by the wind from right to left. Twice late in the first quarter, he didn’t get the help he was counting on.

When Crosby lined up for a 59-yard field goal, which would have broken his own franchise record, he played it out to the right, but his low, driving kick – which had plenty of distance – never came back left and missed wide to the right.

Figuring he had cut through the wind with such a low kick, Crosby still played the wind on his second chance, which came from five yards closer after the Chiefs were flagged for having 12 men on the field.

He hit a much higher, arcing kick that, again, had plenty of leg but, again, never turned left and stayed barely outside the right upright.

“I hit a nice, high ball and when I hit it I thought, ‘There it is. It’s going to move back about two yards left and go right in,’” Crosby said. “It just kind of hung out there. It was surprising and obviously disappointing not to get those three early in the game like that.”

It was Crosby’s third missed field goal attempt in his last five games after starting the season by making 16 straight. He had gone 4-for-4 on field goals last week against Oakland to raise his season percentage to 92 (23 of 25). He’s now at 88.4 percent, still a career best.

Almost a diving stop: Crosby’s onside kick with 2:04 left in the fourth quarter managed to hop and bounce through all the Kansas City players and get to receiver Jordy Nelson streaking down the sideline.

Except it was out of Nelson’s reach, so all he could do was dive at it like a shortstop and try to keep it alive for a teammate. But he couldn’t get a big enough piece of it to make the play.

“I touched it, … but I didn’t quite get there,” Nelson said. “I didn’t think I’d be able to stay in bounds with it, so I just tried to keep it in.”

Milestones: Rodgers’ one touchdown pass on Sunday was his 40th of the season, breaking Brett Favre’s previous single-season franchise mark of 39, set in 1996. Rodgers became the fifth QB in NFL history to throw 40 or more TD passes in a season, joining Dan Marino (1984, 1986), Kurt Warner (1999), Peyton Manning (2004) and Tom Brady (2007).

Rodgers did not throw a second TD pass, though, running Green Bay’s second score in himself, so his streak of at least two TD passes in 13 straight games came to an end. Had he reached 14 games, he would have broken a tie with Manning (2004) and Brady (2010-11) at 13 games for the longest streak in league history.

With 235 passing yards, Rodgers now needs 99 more yards to break Lynn Dickey’s single-season franchise mark of 4,458 passing yards from 1983.

Receiver Donald Driver caught his 58th career TD pass, moving him into sole possession of third place in franchise history, ahead of Antonio Freeman (57).

Driver caught two passes for seven yards in the game, leaving him 21 yards shy of 10,000 receiving yards in his career.

Fellow receiver Jordy Nelson caught two passes for 29 yards, leaving him 14 yards short of his first career 1,000-yard season.

With three catches for 83 yards, tight end Jermichael Finley surpassed his single-season career high for receiving yardage, 676 yards in 2009. Finley has 683 yards this year.

Additional coverage - Dec. 18

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