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Packers' banged-up offensive line gives Rodgers united front

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- So much for the notion that Aaron Rodgers' health would be at risk behind the Green Bay Packers' banged-up offensive line.

Rodgers wasn't sacked and threw five touchdowns, allowing Green Bay to clinch home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs and knock Chicago out of playoff contention in Sunday night's victory.

"I barely got touched out there," Rodgers said. "That's always fun."

A significant injury to Rodgers would be catastrophic for the Packers' hopes of repeating as Super Bowl champions, and there was plenty of concern about the line's ability to protect him from Julius Peppers and the rest of the Bears' solid defensive front. Rodgers had been sacked seven times and taken several other big hits in the Packers' previous two games, a victory over Oakland and a loss at Kansas City.

"When your quarterback's getting hit and sacked as much as Aaron the past couple weeks, that's the last thing you want to have happen, as an offensive lineman," lineman T.J. Lang said.

Lang switched from left guard to right tackle after the Packers lost starter Bryan Bulaga to a sprained left knee and backup Derek Sherrod to a broken right leg against the Chiefs. Evan Dietrich-Smith stepped in for Lang at left guard. Backup Marshall Newhouse already had been filling in at left tackle for Chad Clifton, out since Oct. 9 with hamstring and back injuries.

That meant center Scott Wells and right guard Josh Sitton were the only two players in the same spots they were in for the Packers' season opener against New Orleans.

After the Chiefs game, the reshuffled line took a week to practice together and prepare for the Bears, and things looked much better Sunday night. Coach Mike McCarthy helped keep the Bears' pass rush off-balance early by using a no-huddle offense and rolling out Rodgers, and the line did the rest.

The unit might be getting healthy again soon. McCarthy said Bulaga is "close" to returning, and said he wants Clifton to play this week.

One thing is certain: The Packers' backup linemen don't particularly like hearing the term "patchwork" used to describe their play.

"I think we played pretty well, our quote-unquote `patchwork' line," Newhouse said.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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