Bad news for the Packers.
Tauscher limped into the locker room late in the third quarter of Green Bay's 23-17 victory over the Minnesota Vikings with an injured right groin. It's the type of injury that will keep many players out of action for 2 to 4 weeks, and especially an offensive tackle who squats and uses his legs on every play as a base to either run-block or keep defensive ends and other blitzers away from the quarterback.
The Patriots no doubt are monitoring Tauscher's situation, and will likely place a big target on rookie Tony Moll, Tauscher's backup. Tauscher has performed perhaps the best out of Green Bay's offensive lineman this season, giving up only a pair of sacks at one point over a span of 108 passing plays between Green Bay's Week 2 game against New Orleans and St. Louis on Oct. 8. More than his ability to keep Brett Favre free from getting hit is his experience in recognizing defensive fronts and being a leader among the linemen.
Offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski, sipping on a beer after the Packers beat the Arizona Cardinals last month, nodded toward Tauscher as he walked by and said that Tauscher helped the other younger linemen recognize Arizona's five-man fronts to thwart the Packers' rushing attack. "Actually ‘Tausch' was the guy who called the ‘B-52,' the big 52, five guys rushing," Jagodzinski said. "We knew when those guys were coming in."
The Packers finished with a season-high 203 yards rushing against the Cardinals and Tauscher was a big reason for the Packers' success.
"I think Mark has maybe as good awareness and anticipation as any player I've been around," said offensive line coach Joe Philbin. "He understands the game so well and he's a better athlete than people give him credit for. He's got fine balance and he puts himself in a position to have success."
Moll will be taking Tauscher's place in the event that the veteran is unable to play against New England, which according to McCarthy, is "slim to none." Moll filled in and was "OK," according to McCarthy, Sunday against the Vikings. He probably is Green Bay's future right tackle, but on Sunday he will suddenly be lined up with two rookie guards and a first-year starting center against a team that has uncharacteristically lost two straight games. To make it more interesting, the Packers will be facing a 3-4 defense, which they have only seen a few times this season (at Buffalo, at Miami, and at San Diego in the preseason).
The Packers have a good chance to pass the ball well against the Patriots, who struggled against the Jets on Sunday and rank in the lower half of the league defending the pass. Without Tauscher, whose 57-game starting streak is on the line, it will be up to Moll and any help he can get to hold his own on the right side of the line. With Tauscher the Packers are in much better shape, but all they can do now is keep their fingers crossed for a quick recovery.
Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.