Without Clifton, offensive line melts down
GREEN BAY Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Antwan Odom described his team record-tying, five-sack performance against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday as surreal.
“I still think it’s a dream,” Odom said. “I’m wondering when I’m going to wake up.”
For Packers offensive lineman Daryn Colledge, who was on the receiving end of Odom’s single-handed dismantling of the offensive line, the fallout from the Bengals’ 31-24 win Sunday was nightmarish.
“I had some complete meltdowns,” Colledge said. “That’s just unacceptable.”
Colledge struggled after he moved from left guard to left tackle to replace injured veteran Chad Clifton early in the second half. In all, the Bengals sacked Aaron Rodgers six times.
“You’ve got to keep the quarterback safe if you want to win in this game,” tight end Donald Lee said.
Following a preseason in which a revamped offensive line kept Rodgers more or less untouched, the suddenly maligned and injury-riddled unit has allowed 10 sacks through two games.
“Our pass protection is a negative right now,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.
Losing Clifton to a right ankle injury on the Packers’ first play of the third quarter certainly wasn’t a positive. Clifton was carted off the field to the locker room, where he underwent X-rays that McCarthy said were negative.
Clifton’s departure forced McCarthy, who put a premium on establishing continuity for the line in the preseason, to move players around at three spots. Colledge replaced Clifton, Jason Spitz shifted from center to left guard and former starter Scott Wells went in at center.
Odom beat Colledge four plays later for the first of his four sacks in the second half.
Colledge was questionable coming into the game with a foot sprain he incurred in practice Thursday but said he was fine Sunday and didn’t use his injury as an excuse for his poor play.
Veteran cornerback Charles Woodson made three starts at safety late last season when the Packers were hit with injuries at the position.
Might Woodson be asked to make the move again with Green Bay possibly without both of its starting safeties for an indefinite period?
“There’s no talk of that,” Woodson said after the game Sunday. “I feel like we have the capable people to do it.”
A week after losing Atari Bigby to a knee sprain in the season opener that was to keep him out at least four weeks, Nick Collins left the game with a chest injury in the second quarter Sunday.
Aaron Rouse started in place of Bigby. Jarrett Bush went in for Collins the rest of the game.
“That’s a tough deal to have two guys go down that you anticipate being your starters for a whole season, especially as good as those guys are,” Woodson said. “But it ain’t no time to cry for this team now.”
On a day the Packers defense struggled to stop the Bengals on third down—Cincinnati’s offense converted 9 of 14 third downs—and was susceptible to giving up big plays, Woodson was a bright spot.
He had two first-half interceptions of passes from Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer, returning the second 37 yards for a touchdown.
It was Woodson’s fifth interception return for a touchdown since joining the Packers as a free agent in 2006, tying him for second place in the team record book.
Linebacker Nick Barnett is the Packers’ most prolific poster on the social networking Web site Twitter, and Sunday evening was no exception.
Barnett, who is returning from a major knee injury, seemed to question the way he was used in Sunday’s game. Barnett has been rotating on and off the field in the first two games under new defensive coordinator Dom Capers.
“Hard to get in the swing of things in a rotation,” Barnett posted. “Don’t know why we are even in a (rotation at) this point.”
Barnett also lashed out at fans who criticized him for his boisterous celebration after tackling Bengals running back Cedric Benson in the third quarter—one play after he missed a tackle on wide receiver Andre Caldwell.
But Barnett apologized for “letting it get the best of me” in a subsequent post.