When the Green Bay Packers took on the Seahawks in Week 1 of the NFL season, the offensive line wasn’t built to handle Seattle’s overpowering defense. The Packers started a rookie center and early in the game were forced to use a backup right tackle due to injury.
The results at times were disastrous. A sack on a key fourth down given up by a backup tackle. Then later another sack by the same backup Derek Sherrod, that led to a safety which helped Seattle seal the deal. These are the kinds of plays Green Bay must avoid in order to have a shot at the upset.
But now, 16 games later, Green Bay has built one of the best front fives in football and one that is more than up to the challenge on taking on the Seahawks’ fearsome front seven.
The biggest difference between then and now has been the incredible development of rookie center Corey Linsley. The fifth-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft had a pro bowl caliber season and is much more seasoned than at the time of his baptism by fire at C-Link Stadium in the season’s opening game.
In addition to Linsley’s vast improvement, tackles David Bahktiari and Bryan Bulaga have each been stellar. The resurgence of Bulaga has proved to be particularly important and his absence in the first game, which led to Sherrod playing, was a huge factor in Seattle dominating the first time around.
With the center position and both tackle sports solidified, the Packers boast the best offensive line in the Mike McCarthy era. The group also boasts maybe the best guard in football in Josh Sitton and a true enforcer in T.J. Lang.
Lang and the others won’t back down from Seattle and after helping Eddie Lacy average 4.7 yards per carry and keeping Aaron Rodgers incredibly well protected, their confidence is at an all-time high.
The Packers line will need their best game of the season for Green Bay to be successful. The run must be established and Rodgers has to stay clean, particularly with the torn calf.
For years the Packers have been viewed as soft but their offensive line was determined to change that perception. And for the most part, they have done that this season. But a great performance in Sunday’s NFC championship game and a Packer victory would silence the critics once and for all, while finally giving the Green Bay offensive line the credit it deserves.