GREEN BAY – It was a one-on-one matchup the Packers needed to win, and Bryan Bulaga won it.
Green Bay’s starting right tackle had the task of slowing down Raiders pass rusher Khalil Mack, who came into Sunday’s game in Oakland off a five-sack outing and with a league-best 14 sacks.
When Bulaga allowed Mack a sack on the Packers’ second series, a second-effort play on which Mack dove at a scrambling QB Aaron Rodgers’ feet and tripped him up, the O.co Coliseum crowd roared its approval in anticipation of another hot streak from one of the league’s top young defenders.
Bulaga kept his cool, though, and without much if any chip-block help, he stifled Mack the rest of the way. Mack made just one other tackle in the game, and he even shifted over to the other side for a while in the second half to try against left tackle David Bakhtiari, but didn’t find much success there, either.
Offensive Coordinator Edgar Bennett wouldn’t go so far as to say it was Bulaga’s best game in a season slowed by knee and ankle injuries, but Mike McCarthy said the veteran right tackle was in the running for a game ball from the coaching staff as it reviewed the film from the victory.
“Considering the opponent, how explosive Mack is and just the problems he can create, he certainly did an outstanding job,” Bennett said on Monday.
With Bulaga looking as healthy as he has all year, his bookend on the other side in Bakhtiari is dealing with another injury. Bakhtiari left Sunday’s game with an bum ankle and was replaced by Don Barclay.
McCarthy didn’t have any updates on Bakhtiari as the coaching staff began its preparations for Arizona. He also clarified that starting JC Tretter over Corey Linsley at center in Sunday’s game was due to Linsley not being “100 percent out of the woods” with his ankle injury, even though he was active for the game.
“There’s no controversy,” McCarthy said. “It’s a medical situation.”
Tretter, who has started three of the last four games for Linsley, was limping at the end of the game as well, so consider it a situation in flux. Bennett said one thing that stands out about Tretter’s game is how he finishes blocks in the run game.
“Those are little things that show up,” Bennett said. “Tremendous effort, very smart, versatile. He’s been playing well.”
So were the Packers’ special teams, all the way up until getting a field goal blocked late in the fourth quarter. Special Teams Coordinator Ron Zook said it was the fifth kick the Raiders have blocked this season.
The return game was decidedly in Green Bay’s favor. Micah Hyde was productive on two punt returns (12.0 avg.) while the Packers shut down Raiders punt returner Jeremy Ross on his two tries (-1.5 avg.).
Punt gunner Jeff Janis beat a double team to get a tackle for loss on Ross’ first return to set the tone, leading the Raiders to triple-team him on a later play.
Janis also broke a kickoff return for 47 yards, his third long one of the season, and Zook saw more explosion than hesitation on that one, which made a difference.
“We told him on the sidelines, go. Just go,” Zook said. “In the National Football League, there’s not always going to be an alley, it’s not always going to be clean. He’s got size and speed. He can run through some arm tackles.”
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