GREEN BAY – The Packers have lost veteran starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga for the rest of the season to a knee injury, Head Coach Mike McCarthy confirmed on Tuesday.
Bulaga injured his knee in the fourth quarter on a 46-yard catch-and-run by receiver Randall Cobb and was replaced by Justin McCray. Bulaga had already missed three of the first four games this season due to an ankle injury sustained in training camp, but he had gotten past that and started four straight games, including Monday night.
“Very unfortunate,” McCarthy said. “He’s had a stretch of bad luck this year. I feel bad for him. I thought he clearly had come off his best season last year. Tough news today.”
McCray’s availability to continue filling in for Bulaga is in question, too, as McCray injured his ankle on the final snap of the game. He got caught in the pile in the end zone as rookie running back Jamaal Williams scored the game’s final points.
McCarthy wasn’t second-guessing himself for playing out the untimed down on which McCray got hurt to end the game. He saw the final possession as another opportunity for QB Brett Hundley to work and improve, despite the misfortune with McCray.
“Accepted risk, but I’m not trying to be cold about this,” McCarthy said. “I called the timeouts. We needed that drive. You don’t want to see any of your players get hurt, but to me, you finish the game.”
As for this week, McCarthy wasn’t ruling McCray out just yet, and the Packers will see how he’s doing as the week goes along. He did say safety Morgan Burnett will not play against the Bears due to a groin injury that forced him to leave Monday’s game in the third quarter, but he had no recovery timeline on Burnett, who had missed the previous two games with a hamstring injury.
Last week’s bye was supposed to help the Packers get healthy, but the injury “spiral,” as McCarthy termed it, doesn’t appear to have let up.
McCarthy’s greater concern is the team’s level of play since quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ broken collarbone has fallen off in almost all areas.
In losses to the Saints and Lions sandwiching the bye week, the offense produced just two field goals over a stretch of five quarters and the defense has not forced a punt in the last six quarters. Even special teams cost the Packers three points with a low snap from the season’s third long snapper.
“We all need to do better. We had an injury to Aaron Rodgers and nobody has stepped up, no group has stepped up yet,” McCarthy said. “We’ve had two games that have been very similar in nature, New Orleans and Detroit, and we’ve acknowledged, planned, changed our course as far as how we playing, tilting the identity in a sense. We need to get more production from this new path, and it hasn’t happened yet.”
The defense’s pass rush was stymied time and again by the Lions, who had a timing and rhythm to their passing game that “was quicker than our rush,” McCarthy said. He pointed to sharper technique and rush-lane integrity as points of emphasis moving forward.
The offense must raise its game as well and find consistent production with Hundley, who was effective in hurry-up situations against the Lions but otherwise hasn’t maximized on strong opening drives in his two starts.
Hundley’s first road start now comes on a short week at division-rival Chicago.
“The opportunity is now. That’s why we’re spending the extra time that we are,” McCarthy said. “We have more video on him to build off of, correct. The Bears have more video to study and attack. That’s what’s so great about this game.”