Bulger Feels Rodgers' Pain

No quarterback has been sacked more than Aaron Rodgers this year or Marc Bulger over the last six years. So, if anyone knows what Rodgers is going through, it's the quarterback that will play opposite Rodgers on Sunday. We talked about sacks with Bulger on Wednesday.

Marc Bulger can feel Aaron Rodgers' pain.

Literally.

In his first six-plus seasons as the Rams' starting quarterback, Bulger has been one of the five-most-sacked quarterbacks five times. The only exception was in 2005, when he suffered two broken ribs on one of the 26 sacks he absorbed while lasting for only eight games.

So, when the Packers visit St. Louis on Sunday, perhaps Bulger and Rodgers can compare bumps and bruises. Rodgers has taken a league-high 10 sacks and a few other massive shots in two games.

"You've got to stick to your fundamentals," Bulger said when Packer Report asked him if he'd have any advice for Rodgers. "No quarterback likes to get beat up, but when that happens, sometimes we're all guilty of sometimes losing your fundamentals. You have to stick with those, and these stretches of getting hit a lot, they don't last too long."

Rodgers can only hope that last sentence is true, especially with veteran left tackle Chad Clifton sidelined for at least the next two games with a sprained ankle. Bulger knows how much of a pain life can be without a left tackle. In 2006, Pro Bowler Orlando Pace missed the final eight games of the season. In Bulger's first game without Pace, he was sacked seven times by Carolina in a 15-0 loss.

All of those hits can take a toll on a quarterback. While other factors are in play, Bulger has seen his quarterback rating tumble from about 93.7 from 2004 through 2006 to about 70.5 during the last two-plus seasons. For Rodgers, he's completed 60 percent of his passes on attempts 1 through 20 in the first two games but only 51.9 percent afterward. Last week against Cincinnati, Rodgers had plenty of time during one fourth-quarter dropback. However, his pass to Donald Driver, who was breaking open across the middle, was nowhere close to on target.

"I'd say losing takes more of a mental toll than getting hit," Bulger countered. "I was getting hit just as much when we were winning here and I would throw for 400 (yards) every week. My body was still just the same. So, you hate to lose. Any guy in this locker room hates to lose. If we can just start winning some games, these bruises don't quite hurt as bad. My body wouldn't feel as bad right now if we would have won at Washington."

Like everything else in football, getting sacked sometimes is a team effort. Sometimes, like a few times in last week's game against Cincinnati, it comes down to effort.

"Some of those sacks were Antwan Odom having more effort on the play and his motor continuing longer than ours," Rodgers said on Wednesday. "Those are plays we need to look at and learn from. You can't teach effort. Guys understand that."


Aaron Rodgers is sacked by Al Afalava in Week 1. Jonathan Daniel/Getty

Sometimes, the blame falls on the linemen, whether it's by talent or poor fundamentals.

"It's frustrating when you call heavy protection plays and you're encountering sacks, and then you go into Week 2 and you try to make adjustments for that," coach Mike McCarthy said on Monday. "The reality of it is we have fundamental breakdowns. As we talked about as a staff today, we could have had nine-man protections on a couple of those where we flat-out just get beat, one individual gets beat fundamentally, and it causes a sack and a quarterback hit that we need to eliminate from our play. I'm not going to go overboard here, but four of those sacks in the last two weeks are totally uncalled for. They're unacceptable to get beat the way that we did and hit the quarterback."

Other times, however, the blame falls on the quarterback. While Rodgers has been terrific at not throwing interceptions — he's one of only five quarterbacks in the NFL without an interception this season — his reluctance to force a ball into coverage or throw the ball away when the heat is on is one reason for his high sack total.

Last year, for instance, Rodgers was sacked 34 times, the seventh most in the NFL. After being the seventh-most-sacked quarterback in 1999, Brett Favre never finished in the top 10 for the rest of his time in Green Bay. Combined in 2006 and 2007, Favre was sacked only 36 times, and three times in his career, he was sacked less than 20 times in a season.

Bulger, on the other hand, has been sacked a league-high 230 times over the last six-plus seasons. From 2005 through 2008, only Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger (162) has been sacked more than Bulger (148).

"Obviously, you're a lot more comfortable when you're not getting hit," Bulger said. "I'm sure you can put on any tape in the NFL and quarterbacks get hit (and lose poise). Sometimes, you just have to get to your quicker read or get rid of the ball as a way to help your O-line get their confidence back. We're wearing shoulder pads, too. It's part of the game, and I'm sure (Rodgers) would say the same."

Rodgers acknowledged that it's up to everyone to get these problems solved — and quickly. While the Rams have just one sack this season, next week means a trip to Minnesota, which has seven sacks this season after finishing fourth in the NFL with 42 last year.

"I am still confident in those guys. It's a protection group as a whole," Rodgers said. "I think the running backs, myself and the line need to do a better job. We need to communicate and make sure everyone is on the same page. And when we do make the right protection call or adjustment we need to hold up. Those guys are paid to block. We had a good day of practice today and I'm confident we'll figure it out this week and move forward and be a better protection unit as a whole."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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