Pack's fine offensive line

What a difference a year made for the Packers' offensive line. After an onslaught of injuries crippled the unit in 2002, the starters gobbled up a whopping 98.4% of the available snaps in 2003.<p>

Of the 5,675 plays available for offensive linemen this season in 18 games, the starters – center Mike Flanagan, guards Marco Rivera and Mike Wahle, and tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher – took 5,584, according to a published report.

"We had great continuity," said Larry Beightol, the offensive line coach who completed his fifth season coaching Rivera, Wahle and Flanagan. "Everybody answered the bell."

Beightol said the most effective player for the second year in a row was Rivera.

"Marco had an outstanding year but the whole offensive line had a superior year," he said. "They're better as a group than they are individually, which is what the game is all about, anyway."

Both Rivera and Flanagan played in Sunday's AFC-NFC Pro Bowl in Honolulu.

Reserve Kevin Barry played 65 snaps at right tackle, mostly in the first three games when Rivera needed a break because of a sprained knee. Tauscher then moved inside from right tackle to right guard.

Grey Ruegamer played a total of 26 snaps at center and guard late in the season after Wahle broke his hand, and the Oakland and Denver games turned into blowouts.

Guard-tackle Marcus Spriggs and tackle Brennan Curtin never get off the bench. The Packers allowed just 20 sacks, including 19 in the regular season. That broke the club mark for fewest sacks allowed in a 16-game season.

The offensive line was responsible for just five of the 20 sacks. Flanagan didn't allow any, Rivera gave up 1/2 sack and Clifton, Tauscher and Wahle each yielded 1 1/2.

Brett Favre was responsible for 10 1/2 sacks.

Knockdowns, pass plays in which the quarterback is knocked down but not sacked, totaled 34. That's 1.88 per game, the lowest at any time since 1992, but Beightol added that the emphasis by officials in recent years on safeguarding quarterbacks clearly has reduced the number of knockdowns league-wide.

Clifton allowed the most knockdowns with 4 1/2, followed by Tauscher with 4, Flanagan and Rivera with 2 1/2, and Wahle and fullback William Henderson with 2.

Clifton, Rivera and Tauscher also were responsible for 6 pressures, defined as times when the quarterback's throw was impeded or he was forced to vacate the pocket.

Flanagan allowed the least total of sacks, knockdowns and pressures with 5 1/2. Clifton yielded the most with 12.


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