Offensive line giving Rodgers 'that extra second'
Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy said quarterback Aaron Rodgers deserves the praise he's received this season, but he's gotten plenty of help.
Take the Packers offensive line. A group that has given up its share of sacks in the past – partly because of Rodgers' tendency to hold onto the football until the final possible moment – has done a better job keeping their quarterback off the ground.
Green Bay has allowed 22 sacks in 10 games this season, ranked 16th in the NFL. It's dead middle in the league. It's also the group's highest ranking since 2007.
The Packers are on pace to allow 35 sacks this season, the fewest since they allowed 34 during Rodgers' first season as a starter in 2008.
"I think our offensive line has really started the charge here," McCarthy said. "It starts up front. The ability to have five guys that continue to play together each and every week, it's so important for that unit, the cohesiveness of our offensive line. Like I've said before, I think this group has a chance to be the best offensive line that we've had in my time here."
The offensive line's pass protection has been especially clean in Green Bay's two games since the bye week.
The Packers allowed at least two sacks in each of their first eight games. Since returning from the bye, they allowed no sacks against the Chicago Bears and one Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. Tight end Richard Rodgers was credited with allowing that sack.
It's no coincidence the Packers exceeded 50 points in their past two games for the first time in franchise history, and only the fifth time in NFL history. With a clean pocket, Rodgers has been unstoppable.
"We know as a line if we can do that, he's going to go out there and pick defenses a part," left guard Josh Sitton said Sunday. "We pride ourselves in making the initial block and holding the protection that extra second. He's the best in the business at making plays on that second effort.
"If we give him that time, he's the best. So we definitely pride ourselves of that."
The offensive line's protection has been especially impressive considering starting guards Josh Sitton (toe) and T.J. Lang (ankle) have played through injuries the past two weeks.
Neither Sitton nor rookie center Corey Linsley have allowed a sack this season. Lang hasn't given up a sack since Week 3 at the Detroit Lions.
"I think they're playing very well," offensive coordinator Tom Clements said. "Pass protection has been outstanding, and we've run the ball well at times. We need to probably do it a little more consistently, but they're playing very well, and you can't really say enough about Josh and T.J. with having little to no practice over the last couple of week and still being able to play and play well. So that's a big plus for us."
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