Early Sacks Were Quickly Corrected

When the Packers gave up three sacks on their first three possessions on Sunday in Philadelphia, including back-to-back sacks before kicking a field goal early in the second quarter, it would have been natural for some fans to think, “Uh oh, here we go again.”


After all, last year the Packers surrendered four or more sacks eight times in 17 games, though only once (in the playoffs) after Week 10. The 51 sacks allowed in the regular season in 2009 tied for the third-highest total in team history.

But any foreboding feeling amongst the faithful in front of their TV sets was not being felt in the huddle.

"No one panicked," center Scott Wells said. "That's what you have to do. You have to keep a calm, cool head."

The poised, collected response carried the day, as the Packers didn't allow another sack on quarterback Aaron Rodgers' final 21 pass attempts against the Eagles. Three sacks is still too many as far as the linemen are concerned, but none after the first play of the second quarter though the end of the game showed the unit is capable of quickly righting itself.

The reason it can, and did, is simply experience. All three Philadelphia sacks, by ends Juqua Parker (two) and Trent Cole, were mostly the responsibility of tackles Mark Tauscher and Chad Clifton, who know what it means to shake off a bad play.

As frustrating as it was to witness the two 11-year veterans suffer costly, fundamental lapses with their footwork and initial punch – "When we watched the film, it was really a matter of executing and doing the basic things that those two guys have been doing for the better part of a decade," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said – the potential flashbacks to 2009 weren't part of the mental equation for the offense precisely because it was Tauscher and Clifton who slipped up.

The situation was entirely different last year when the deluge of sacks started in Week 1 and seemingly didn't end until the back half of the schedule. At that time, the Packers were breaking in a new right tackle in Allen Barbre and searching for a replacement for an injured Clifton, and all the shuffling and uncertainty took a toll.

This time around, at least in this first game, the rough spots were easier to smooth out. Rodgers himself said after the game he wasn't concerned, except for the fact that the Eagles' sacks came from standard four-man rushes, but he maintains his faith in the seasoned group in front of him.

"Some of us had some bad plays," Wells acknowledged. "We made the corrections.

"I think that's part of the key of having veteran players in there. No one overreacts. They move on to the next play, and that's why I think the second half we were able to do a little bit better job of protecting and able to move the ball more effectively."

The offense was able to produce scores on four consecutive drives spanning the end of the second and start of the third quarters. The three touchdowns and a field goal gave the Packers a 27-10 lead late in the third.

But future opponents, beginning this week with Buffalo, are sure to take note of the moves by Parker and Cole that beat Tauscher and Clifton for those sacks. The two respected veterans are no longer in the prime of their careers, but they aren't the type to make excuses either.

With the quiet pride they take in their work, fans can bet they'll bounce back in Week 2 as well as they did over the final three quarters of Week 1.

"We made the point to our guys, this is where we're at -- we've got 70 plays on film of a real live football game, so now the opposition's got a chance to look at it," Philbin said. "They can see some of our holes right now.

"I said right to the tackles in the meeting, we're going to get bull-rushed, we're going to get guys dipping their pads and coming in fast and low and hard. So we've got to respond. We'd better have an answer. It's not going to go away."

Neither are Tauscher and Clifton, of course, nor any of the other linemen up front. Only one of the five starters has fewer than left guard Daryn Colledge's 61 career regular-season starts, and that one – right guard Josh Sitton (19 starts) – was considered the unit's steadiest player through the struggles of 2009.

The Packers are counting on that overall experience and stability to make the first three drives of the season the exception and not the rule.

"I'm confident that we'll make the adjustments," Philbin said. "It's the fun part about the coaching and playing and competing in this league … we'll find out on Sunday how well we adjust and how much improvement we can make.

"We told them there's a natural cycle. You've got competition and now you get corrections and now you're looking for improvement. How quickly we can do that will determine how successful we are as an offense."

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