The Packers Overcame Offensive Line Issues When They Won Their Last Two Super Bowls

The Green Bay Packers got some bad news a day before their season finale against the Bears in Chicago: All Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari was lost for the season with a torn ACL. He will not be available for the playoffs this season.

But ironically, the last two times the Packers won the Super Bowl they also had to overcome injuries along their offensive line. And this year’s club has the depth and talent to overcome the loss of their best offensive lineman.

In 1996, left tackle was also an issue for the Packers. Veteran Ken Ruettgers started the season at the position but was injured and eventually had to retire. The Packers tried journeymen Gary Brown at the position and Brown started five games with mixed results.

Rookie first-round pick John Michels was next up and he started nine games for the Packers. Like most rookies, Michels had some good games and some struggles. But for a team that had high hopes of winning a Super Bowl, relying on an inconsistent rookie was not ideal.

So, the Packers called on nine-year veteran Bruce Wilkerson. The former University of Tennessee star had experience starting for the Raiders and later played for the expansion Jaguars. The Packers signed him to add experienced depth at the position and the time for that was now.

Wilkerson started the season finale at left tackle against the Vikings at Lambeau Field. The Packers scored 38 points while gaining 440 total yards in the game and Wilkerson played well. He remained the starter at left tackle throughout the Packers two playoff wins over San Francisco and Carolina and in Green Bay’s 35-21 win over New England in Super Bowl XXXI.

In 2010, the Packers again overcame injuries to a key starter on the offensive line to win a championship. They started the season with 10-year veteran Mark Tauscher at right tackle. But after four games, Tauscher suffered a shoulder injury and was later placed on the injured reserve. The Packers turned to rookie first-round pick Bryan Bulaga for the rest of the season.

Bulaga started all 12 remaining regular season games and each of the Packers four postseason contests. In fact, Bulaga was the youngest player to start a Super Bowl when he took the field for the Packers against the Steelers in Super Bowl LXV.

Bulaga had a great first year in the league. In addition to winning the Super Bowl, he was named to the NFL’s All-Rookie Team. By the end of the season, there was little doubt who the Packers new right tackle was going to be and Bulaga held the position for 10 seasons except when he missed time due to injury.

The 2020 Packers have a lot more injuries to deal with along the offensive line. They lost starting right guard Lane Taylor for the season in the Week 1 victory in Minnesota. Lucas Patrick stepped up and filled in admirably. Center Corey Linsley missed three games late in the season due to injury. It cost Linsley Pro Bowl honors, but the Packers got solid center play from Elgton Jenkins who shifted from left guard to center and played well at that position. Jenkins has also played both tackle positions for the Packers this season because of the injuries that struck the offensive line.

GM Brian Gutekunst has prized offensive linemen who can play multiple positions and it has paid off handsomely for the Packers this season. Jenkins can play anywhere along the offensive line. Patrick can play either guard position or center. Billy Turner has played both tackle positions and guard for the Pack. Free agent signee Rick Wagner has filled in at both tackles and played blocking tight end in one game when Marcedes Lewis was hurt. Rookie guard Jon Runyan, Jr. stepped up and played well when he had to fill in because of in-game injuries.

The Packers offensive line has stuck together throughout the season. The strong play of all the linemen is a big reason quarterback Aaron Rodgers was sacked only 20 times all season and that the Packers led the league in points scored.

The Packers have the depth and versatility to overcome the injury to Bakhtiari and get the job done in the postseason.

The last two times the Packers won the Super Bowl, they had to overcome offensive line injuries to win a championship. Will 2020 be the third time the team manages to accomplish that feat? The potential is there. Now the team needs to rise to the challenge.

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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Comments (56)

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raedwallaceee's picture

January 09, 2021 at 12:23 pm

The Green Bay Packers got some bad news a day before their season finale against the Bears in Chicago: All Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari was lost for the season with a torn ACL. He will not be available for the playoffs this season.

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But ironically, the last two times the Packers won the Super Bowl they also had to overcome injuries along their offensive line. And this year’s club has the depth and talent to overcome the loss of their best offensive lineman.

In 1996, left tackle was also an issue for the Packers. Veteran Ken Ruettgers started the season at the position but was injured and eventually had to retire. The Packers tried journeymen Gary Brown at the position and Brown started five games with mixed results.

Rookie first-round pick John Michels was next up and he started nine games for the Packers. Like most rookies, Michels had some good games and some struggles. But for a team that had high hopes of winning a Super Bowl, relying on an inconsistent rookie was not ideal.

So, the Packers called on nine-year veteran Bruce Wilkerson. The former University of Tennessee star had experience starting for the Raiders and later played for the expansion Jaguars. The Packers signed him to add experienced depth at the position and the time for that was now.

Wilkerson started the season finale at left tackle against the Vikings at Lambeau Field. The Packers scored 38 points while gaining 440 total yards in the game and Wilkerson played well. He remained the starter at left tackle throughout the Packers two playoff wins over San Francisco and Carolina and in Green Bay’s 35-21 win over New England in Super Bowl XXXI.

In 2010, the Packers again overcame injuries to a key starter on the offensive line to win a championship. They started the season with 10-year veteran Mark Tauscher at right tackle. But after four games, Tauscher suffered a shoulder injury and was later placed on the injured reserve. The Packers turned to rookie first-round pick Bryan Bulaga for the rest of the season.

Bulaga started all 12 remaining regular season games and each of the Packers four postseason contests. In fact, Bulaga was the youngest player to start a Super Bowl when he took the field for the Packers against the Steelers in Super Bowl LXV.

Bulaga had a great first year in the league. In addition to winning the Super Bowl, he was named to the NFL’s All-Rookie Team. By the end of the season, there was little doubt who the Packers new right tackle was going to be and Bulaga held the position for 10 seasons except when he missed time due to injury.

The 2020 Packers have a lot more injuries to deal with along the offensive line. They lost starting right guard Lane Taylor for the season in the Week 1 victory in Minnesota. Lucas Patrick stepped up and filled in admirably. Center Corey Linsley missed three games late in the season due to injury. It cost Linsley Pro Bowl honors, but the Packers got solid center play from Elgton Jenkins who shifted from left guard to center and played well at that position. Jenkins has also played both tackle positions for the Packers this season because of the injuries that struck the offensive line.

GM Brian Gutekunst has prized offensive linemen who can play multiple positions and it has paid off handsomely for the Packers this season. Jenkins can play anywhere along the offensive line. Patrick can play either guard position or center. Billy Turner has played both tackle positions and guard for the Pack. Free agent signee Rick Wagner has filled in at both tackles and played blocking tight end in one game when Marcedes Lewis was hurt. Rookie guard Jon Runyan, Jr. stepped up and played well when he had to fill in because of in-game injuries.

The Packers offensive line has stuck together throughout the season. The strong play of all the linemen is a big reason quarterback Aaron Rodgers was sacked only 20 times all season and that the Packers led the league in points scored.

The Packers have the depth and versatility to overcome the injury to Bakhtiari and get the job done in the postseason.

The last two times the Packers won the Super Bowl, they had to overcome offensive line injuries to win a championship. Will 2020 be the third time the team manages to accomplish that feat? The potential is there. Now the team needs to rise to the challenge.

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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mnbadger's picture

January 10, 2021 at 07:43 am

is there a way to block imposters?

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gkarl's picture

January 09, 2021 at 12:23 pm

Positive thoughts Gil, let's hope history repeats itself this year and we capture another SB. I'm feeling pretty good about the OL right now , here's hoping they and the rest of the team can avoid further injuries for the playoff run.

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jannes bjornson's picture

January 09, 2021 at 07:11 pm

Runyan has some playing time in and he should know the scheme by now. More help with him inside and I believe he could play RT if necessry.

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GilMartin's picture

January 10, 2021 at 01:03 pm

Like what Runyan has done whenever he's been in the lineup. I don't think he's their first option. Only if Wagner can't play will we see Runyan start. I thought he might start when Linsley went down and they didn't go that route. We'll see. I like the kid and I think he has a very bright future. Thanks for the comment, jannesbjornson.

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GilMartin's picture

January 10, 2021 at 01:00 pm

I am also confident the offensive line can get the job done. Keeping my fingers crossed they'll be OK against whoever they play next. Even banged up, the Rams have some great interior linemen and we know what the Bucs have done (although we can't face them next week). Won't be easy, but the playoffs aren't supposed to be. Thanks as always for the comment, gkarl.

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PatrickGB's picture

January 09, 2021 at 03:57 pm

That was then, this is now. The Buks will (again) make Rodgers life difficult. Both them and Carolina had a way to mess up Aaron’s plan at the line. A good run game and quick throws is the answer.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

January 10, 2021 at 03:50 am

It is down to playing LAR or the Bears. It is unclear whether LAR will have Aaron Donald, who sustained a rib injury.

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HankScorpio's picture

January 10, 2021 at 06:53 am

The Rams did one heck of job shutting down Seattle, powered in large part by the way they dominated Seattles interior OL. I suspect Jenkins-Linsley-Patrick will put up better resistance.

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dobber's picture

January 10, 2021 at 09:04 am

Like the Vikings, Seattle has struggled for years (since they dealt away Max Unger) to field a quality OL. Wilson doesn't help their aggregate stats because he tends to hold onto the ball and move around a lot, but that's their Achilles heel. Teams like the Rams and Bucs are able to exploit that...and the Rams did yesterday.

The Rams are better than TB, and they should--assuming both Donald and Brockers are healthy--pose very similar challenges to the Packers OL. TB's (and SF's a year ago) DLs bullied the Packers interior OL. They used a lot of blitzing up the gut, too. The Packers know what to expect from both teams, defensively.

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CoachDino's picture

January 11, 2021 at 03:48 pm

Great point, ARod needs to get rid of the ball much like against Chicago.

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murf7777's picture

January 10, 2021 at 08:48 am

That’s correct in LA Rams win shows that Defense still wins championships. Fortunately for the Packers their defense is really come together towards the end of this year. In the pick up of snacks is only going to help.

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dobber's picture

January 10, 2021 at 11:48 am

I think the Rams are an example of a team with really good skill position players and a wildly inconsistent QB (Goff). I don't worry too much about slowing their offense down.

"That’s correct in LA Rams win shows that Defense still wins championships."

It won a playoff game in this case.

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CoachDino's picture

January 12, 2021 at 07:43 pm

Murrfff... Pitts, Washington, NO & Bears are the next 4 best defenses graded by PFF. They all Lost. So did Indy and Seattle.

LA, & Tampa won Packers got the Buy. That rounds out the top 10 Defenses.

Not saying defense isn't important, just not as important as it used to be.

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CoachDino's picture

January 12, 2021 at 07:43 pm

Murrfff... Pitts, Washington, NO & Bears are the next 4 best defenses graded by PFF. They all Lost. So did Indy and Seattle.

LA, & Tampa won Packers got the Buy. That rounds out the top 10 Defenses.

Not saying defense isn't important, just not as important as it used to be.

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GilMartin's picture

January 10, 2021 at 01:04 pm

Rams are hoping he'll be available, but obviously we'll see what happens during the week leading up to the game and on game day. If he's out or limited, it would be a big loss for LA. Thanks for the comment, Thegreatreynoldo.

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Leatherhead's picture

January 10, 2021 at 10:37 am

Well, the Bucs are going to have to beat New Orleans, in New Orleans, before they get to make Rodgers life difficult.

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GilMartin's picture

January 10, 2021 at 01:05 pm

Glad we don't have to face them right away and possibly not at all. I think they would be the most challenging matchup for us. Thanks for the comment, Leatherhead.

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PatrickGB's picture

January 10, 2021 at 10:58 pm

I agree leatherhead. In my opinion we dodged a bullet with that. But Donald is a handful if healthy. And I would not be surprised if TB beat NO.

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GilMartin's picture

January 10, 2021 at 01:01 pm

No doubt the Bucs, Rams and Bears all have strong front sevens so the offensive line will have to get the job done. I agree there will be more emphasis on the running game in the cold in January and quick throws can be effective. Hoping for a repeat of history. Thanks for the comment, PatrickGB.

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ricky's picture

January 09, 2021 at 05:15 pm

Anything less than another Lombardi in Titletown this year will mean it's a failure. 13-3 or Rodgers being MVP are great, but meaningless unless they bring home the hardware. I'd never say this before a season began, but at this point, yes, that is the reality IMO.

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ricky's picture

January 09, 2021 at 05:15 pm

Anything less than another Lombardi in Titletown this year will mean it's a failure. 13-3 or Rodgers being MVP are great, but meaningless unless they bring home the hardware. I'd never say this before a season began, but at this point, yes, that is the reality IMO.

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Stroh's picture

January 09, 2021 at 06:03 pm

It would be disappointing no doubt, but 13-3 is no f'in failure under any circumstances! Rodgers MVP is great for him but simply a personal achievement, not team related, tho obviously his terrific play leading to MVP, had something to do with team success. Clearly your born in the last 30 yrs and have no perspective when it comes to success or failure in the NFL.

They've already achieved more than we thought prior to the season beginning.

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PatrickGB's picture

January 09, 2021 at 08:33 pm

I get that and 31 teams are going to be disappointed. Yet I can still appreciate a successful season.

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GilMartin's picture

January 10, 2021 at 01:06 pm

I think it would definitely be a disappointment, but a failure may be a bit harsh. This team has a chance to win a Super Bowl this year and you really want to see Rodgers get another ring and the Packers come through and realize their full potential. Thanks for the comment, ricky.

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GregC's picture

January 09, 2021 at 07:27 pm

Wilkerson was the unsung hero of that championship team in '96. But I've never thought of the 2010 team as having OL problems to overcome. Tauscher got hurt early in the year, and they had an NFL-ready first-round draft pick ready to take his place. The situation this year is more like '96, but they are better prepared than they were then. Most people thought the Packers overpaid for Billy Turner last year, but right now it is looking like money well spent--in a big way.

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flackcatcher's picture

January 09, 2021 at 09:45 pm

Packers paid market price for Turner, as he was one of the top rated FA at his position that year. Last year he was well worth his contract. This year, Turner has by any measure clearly outplayed his contract. Another FA win by Packer GM Gute. (Wilkerson was playing out of position for the 96 team. A real blue collar player)

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dobber's picture

January 10, 2021 at 09:13 am

I think that's the key point with all those FA additions: the Packers paid market price for them. They're now having to deal with that in terms of roster management and the cap. It's a prime example of what happens when you can't fill key positions through the draft. There's some signs that these young draftees will be able to step up at some of those spots.

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PeteK's picture

January 10, 2021 at 10:11 am

Yes, I think Runyon could be solid, and it has been a good sign that Stepaniak has been practicing.

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flackcatcher's picture

January 10, 2021 at 06:04 pm

Well Yeah. There's always a downside. Both Smiths and Turner and yes Amos have played to their contracts, and in the case of Z. Smith and Turner outplayed theirs. Which, makes them a bargain in the short term. Trade off is Cap Man and Father Time gets them sooner, less value long term. Gute's call was answered by back to back 13-3 seasons.

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GilMartin's picture

January 10, 2021 at 01:10 pm

Yes, Turner has been a great pickup even if he had a bit of a slow start last season. the offensive line and the offense wouldn't be as good without him. Yes, Wilkerson was a real blue collar find and quietly a great addition for the 96 team. Thanks for the comment, flackcatcher.

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GilMartin's picture

January 10, 2021 at 01:09 pm

Wilkerson was a big reason they won that Super Bowl because left tackle was an issue for most of the year. As for 2010, Bulaga was a first round pick, but they aren't all ready to step in as we all know. Bulaga was ready and that was a big deal. As for Turner, he has been a big reason for the team's success this year. Gute loves versatile O-linemen and it's paid off big time. Thanks for the comment, GregC, good stuff.

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canadapacker's picture

January 09, 2021 at 08:04 pm

The playoffs are a new tournament - Remember when the Pack was 13-3 with Favre under center didnt beat the Giants in Lambeau? Remember the Giants beat the previously unbeaten 18-0 Patriots to win the SBowl. Now so far today the 10-6 Rams beat the 12-4 Seahawks - and other teams that have qualified below 500 have won their first playoff game so Washington has a chance - I dont think so but you always have a chance. I am happy that the Pack are playing at home but to just jump to Ricky's conclusion that is would be a big disappointment is false and Stroh is correct. When we looked at the hard schedule at the start of the season the fact that we are 13-3 exceeded my and most prognosticators expectations. Today I expect at least to get a Division Championship game at Lambeau. And I will not be happy if we lose as long as we play well - but these games can change on a few bounces or on another team playing lights out or a bad call - remember New Orleans 2 years ago. I think that we are set up to get our points and as long as the weather doesnt go completely crazy we will have an advantage over many warm weather teams which will mean everybody except the Bears and the Washington team. But it is nice to be here and watch these other teams beat on each other. For example if it is the Rams Cupp and Donald are both under the weather.

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CAG123's picture

January 10, 2021 at 02:48 am

The Rams game was sort of a toss up though not exactly slaying a giant they split the season series and the Seahawks off has been meh the last 6 games of the season.

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dobber's picture

January 10, 2021 at 09:15 am

I think the Packers match up pretty well with Seattle. I'm less certain about the Rams.

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murf7777's picture

January 10, 2021 at 11:34 am

I agree about Seattle, but with Goff and broken thumb I feel pretty good about our odds of beating LA. I suspect we will be a 7 point fav. I really think after watching his last game at Seattle and Bears the “snacks” addition is going to be a major difference in stopping the run and making teams one dimensional.

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dobber's picture

January 10, 2021 at 11:49 am

Very possibly...but he has to be on the field to do that. Keke will be back. It will be interesting to see how the Packers divvy up snaps.

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GilMartin's picture

January 10, 2021 at 01:15 pm

Agreed, Seattle has been meh on offense lately and early in the season their defense was horrible although they improved the last 6 games or so. Glad the Rams pulled off the upset. Thanks for the comment CAG123.

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GilMartin's picture

January 10, 2021 at 01:13 pm

Losing in the playoffs is never fun and usually painful, especially if you're the number one seed. But to say the season would be a failure if they lose is a bit harsh. It would be a big disappointment, but unless they embarrass themselves, it happens. Look, the 15-1 Packers lost their first playoff game in 2011. Yes, it takes the luster off the season's accomplishments, but 13-3 isn't a failure, 3-13 is a failure. Hope we won't have to think about it this season. GPG. Thanks for the comment, canadapacker.

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PearlyBakerBest's picture

January 09, 2021 at 09:50 pm

Look no further than the picture. The return of Corey Linsley is crucial for the stretch run IMO.

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GilMartin's picture

January 10, 2021 at 01:16 pm

Big to get Linsley back. The injury cost him Pro Bowl honors but he deserved to go. Thanks for the comment, PearlyBakerBest.

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canadapacker's picture

January 09, 2021 at 10:49 pm

Rams or Bears - Rams or Bears - I would rather see the Rams. I think that the Rams are a tougher match up -especially their D - but it is also hard to beat any team 3 times in a season. I just want to see us/ Lafluer beat McVay

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GilMartin's picture

January 10, 2021 at 01:17 pm

Also want to see LaFleur beat McVay. Hope he isn't psyched out by facing his former mentor. Thanks for the comment, canadapacker.

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Guam's picture

January 10, 2021 at 08:24 am

Good research Gil! The parallels are interesting. Both the Rams and the Bears bring strong front sevens to the party, so our O-line will have to be stout going forward. The only serious blemish the O-line had all year was Tampa Bay and as long as they don't repeat that in the playoffs, the Packers will have an opportunity.

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dobber's picture

January 10, 2021 at 09:16 am

Tampa and the Rams (if healthy) pose the same kinds of challenges for the Packers' OL...Rams are a better defense based on their secondary. If you can get ARod time, TB struggles to cover, especially downfield. The Packers coaches know exactly what kinds of things these teams are going to try to do to them to slow down their offense. If they don't have an answer for it at this point, they really don't deserve to advance.

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Guam's picture

January 10, 2021 at 10:21 am

And that is the worry isn't it? MLF and company have lost to teams with stout front sevens and good rushing attacks. Hopefully they turned the corner against Tennessee although no one would call their defense stout. The good news with the Rams is that their offense should be overmatched by our defense.

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Leatherhead's picture

January 10, 2021 at 10:48 am

Rams= QB with broken hand and Aaron Donald injured. These are the kind of breaks you hope for when you’re trying to get to the Super Bowl.

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dobber's picture

January 10, 2021 at 11:08 am

Pun intended?

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Leatherhead's picture

January 10, 2021 at 10:41 am

It looks like Tampa’s road to Lambeau goes through NewOrleans. They’re 0-2 vs the Saints.

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dobber's picture

January 10, 2021 at 11:07 am

...which reminds us of those saying they don't want to play the Bears because, "it's hard to beat the same team three times in the same season."

TB has lost to the Saints by an average of 23 points in those two matchups.

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canadapacker's picture

January 10, 2021 at 12:02 pm

I guess when it comes to a team beating another team there are a lot of sayings that may not be true - I guess that must mean that the only rule is there are no rules. My limited search found out the following ---teams playing each other 3 times in a season has happened at least 21 times since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. The article was mainly interested in how common it was for such a team to beat that opponent a third time. Counting the Saints’ win last weekend, teams from 1970 to present who are 2–0 in the regular season against a particular opponent are 14–7 when they play them again.""" So I guess that it is not bad .667% winning record.

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GilMartin's picture

January 10, 2021 at 01:26 pm

Can't say I'm too upset, Leatherhead. Thanks for the comment.

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GilMartin's picture

January 10, 2021 at 01:25 pm

The battle of strategy, play calling and wits is at it's highest level during the playoffs. LaFleur has done a good job so far at making adjustments and was better this year than last year. Let's see what he comes up with for the playoffs. Thanks for the comment, dobber.

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GilMartin's picture

January 10, 2021 at 01:18 pm

Thanks for the kind words, Guam. Yeah, the Bears, Rams and Bucs all have very strong front 7s and the o-line will have to rise to the occasion. I hope they can do it whoever the opponent is. Thanks for the comment.

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GLM's picture

January 10, 2021 at 04:52 pm

Linsley did make 1st team all pro, didn't he? That beats going to the Pro Bowl.

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PatrickGB's picture

January 10, 2021 at 11:02 pm

No doubt that linsleys return helps the line. But the loss of Bak will change the offense. How knows, maybe even for the better?

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