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Facing Bears and McCown Provide Packers Opportunity to Improve Turnover Ratio

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Facing Bears and McCown Provide Packers Opportunity to Improve Turnover Ratio

The situation is baffling. Teams that don't win the turnover battle in the NFL lose football games.

It's why during Mike McCarthy's tenure as coach in Green Bay, the Packers have a 57-6 (.905) record when they win the turnover battle and a 9-24 (.273) record when they turn the ball over more than their opponents.

So how the Packers have a 5-2 record despite a minus-two turnover ratio this season is puzzling. Somehow they're beating the odds and winning.

"We're very aware of where we are at, turnover ratio," said head coach Mike McCarthy on Monday. "At minus-two, I don't like it. Our team doesn't like it. We're working to improve that. But at the end of the day, we're playing damn good football. We're winning games. We're getting better as a football team."

The Packers are tied for 20th in the NFL in turnover ratio. They're also tied for last with only three interceptions on the year.

But perhaps a big part of the reason they're winning is because the offense isn't giving the ball way to its opponents very often.

Green Bay has turned the ball over just twice in the last four games. Not coincidentally, the Packers are on a four-game winning streak.

If there was ever a time for the Packers to reverse course and start taking the ball away more often than they give it away, it would be this week as Green Bay prepares to host the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football.

It's as if the Bears a good-luck charm for the Packers defense. Including the playoffs, Green Bay has posted 12 takeaways against Chicago in their last five meetings between the two teams.

Cornerback Tramon Williams is part of the reason the reason the Packers haven't had many takeaways this season, yet to come up with a single interception in seven starts, not that he's alone in that regard.

The challenge for Williams this week will be going up against the Bears' top two receiving receiving targets, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, both of whom stand 6-3 or taller.

"It's definitely difficult," said Williams. "It kind of changes the way you game plan a little bit, focusing on certain players, certain areas of the game. But you have to find a way at some point to try to stop these guys and sometimes it's going to be stressful. It's not going to always be help here. You have go out there and just be up for the challenge."

While the Bears have a stable of weapons at their disposal, the job gets tougher without starting quarterback Jay Cutler, who will miss Monday's game with a groin injury.

Taking Cutler's place is backup Josh McCown, an 11-year veteran who's on his fifth NFL team but third consecutive in Chicago.

McCown has thrown more interceptions than touchdown passes over the course of his career with a 38-to-44 ratio, which bodes well for the Packers to finally start grabbing some interceptions.

Even though McCown has a less than stellar track record, however, Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk isn't about to take the Bears quarterback for granted.

"McCown can move," said Hawk. "He can get out of the pocket, and he'll hurt you. We don't game plan for specific guys, more the scheme and what they do.

"But you still have to be aware of him. He can still run. He might be an old guy in the league, but he can move. He can get the ball down the field. I don't think we're going to have to change things up too much."

Even though it was a losing effort last week, McCown performed capably in filling in for Cutler by completing 14 of 20 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown while not turning the ball over. He also added 33 rushing yards on four carries.

Williams echoed the sentiments of Hawk.

"We're not looking past him at all, that he can get the job done," said Williams. "And we're going to prepare that way, as he was a starter for years in the league."

Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email carriveau@uwalumni.com.

Comments (24)

bomdad's picture

Timely topic. Just looking back at the Bears games since Lovie took over, they've pretty much only won when they take the ball away from the Packers.

Evan's picture

[bulletin board material joke]

Idiot Fan's picture

I don't know that it's that puzzling as far as record goes. In their seven games, the turnover differential has been: -2, even, even, even, -1, +1, even. Their record has been L, W, L, W, W, W, W. There's really only one game in there that they won or lost where the turnover differential suggested that they shouldn't have, and that was just a -1 differential.

I do agree that it's odd that they have so few takeaways, especially considering that that seemed to be the one thing the defense has done well in recent years. But at the same time, this defense seems much improved, despite that dropoff.

PackerPete's picture

Takeaways, while helpful, don't tell the whole story. The Bears have 18 takeaways in 7 games this season, the Packers 7. Yet the Bears have given up 206 points in 7 games, the Packers 158. If you put on the hat of a casual football observer for a second, forgetting who you are rooting for, and have to decide between the Bears D and the Packers D at the moment, everybody will take the Packers D over the Bears D. I personally feel that the Packers D is playing way better than last year's D, especially given the many injuries.

Evan's picture

"I personally feel that the Packers D is playing way better than last year’s D..."

I don't think there can be any doubt.

Katsuya's picture

Yep. The secondary is locking down on the wrs more this year, therefore less picks. I would rather see them shutting down WRs than being ball hawks that allow huge gain when they fail to pick the ball off.

Idiot Fan's picture

Totally agree.

MarkinMadison's picture

I chalk it up to the absences of a couple of ballhawks (Woodson and Hayward), and more emphasis on tackling v. stripping the ball. I seem to remember we complained in past years that certain players were going for the INT at the expense of ensuring the tackle. That is not happening this year, IMHO.

Evan's picture

I don't know about going for the INT over the tackle, but definitely trying to strip the ball instead of tackling had been a huge issue in recent years, Woodson especially. Williams is still guilty of it.

MarkinMadison's picture

I think we had that discussion about Woodson for sure in his last season. He was looking for the record.

Beep's picture

Last year I was criticizing Burnett for not getting any picks and he turned around the next week versus the Vikings for his only 2 of the season. Let's hope talking about it sparks something this year and doesn't stop!

taco's picture

The causal benefits of turnovers is a little over played in my opinion. I think it's more important to play "damn good football", as McCarthy says. For example, forcing a 3-and-out is nearly as good as an INT. Especially with a high powered offense or a punt returner like Hyde, who is averaging 18 yds/return. This year, the Packers D is doing that.

The vikings didn't turn the ball over, but they couldn't convert on 3rd down when they needed to. That's why they are losers.

If you've got a good football team, you shouldn't have to depend on turnovers to win. I think that's what MM is saying. They will come as other teams struggle to keep up and take too many risks. It's not that turnovers don't matter, they do to some degree. It is a lot harder to keep up when you have fewer opportunities to score. But I think the statistics surrounding turnover ratios are often over simplified and confuse causation and correlation.

bomdad's picture

Just call them Stops. If you get the ball back, the defense did its job. Doesn't really matter how. Some stats indicate a failed 4th down as a turnover. I wonder if Brian's stats include them, there has been one of note vs Baltimore and others I am sure.

Katsuya's picture

Exactly, you nailed it.

Bibbon Hazel's picture

Shields gets a pick as does the Doctor. Packers 34 Bears 17

hayward4president's picture

Screw the doc. If a safety gets one it better be Banjo or Morgo.

Otto's picture

I haven't seen anyone make the link between having and not having Charles Woodson. Is it possible that he was that much of a difference maker (not just on the field, but off the field) that it could account for this much of a fall off?

Lincoln's picture

Is it possible that more of the blitzes are getting home? I wonder if the improved play of AJ Hawk and effectiveness of interior blitzes is an underlying factor in a decrease of interceptions. Blitzes up the middle seem to be less likely to cause fumbles, because the QB sees them coming. Just a thought.

bomdad's picture

Its because we have not played Cutler yet.

Lincoln's picture

33% of the time we have unblocked pressure it results in a sack. Leads the league. https://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2013/11/01/palazzolos-pitch-unbloc...

Bohj's picture

I think we need more stats to paint a picture here too. I think last year, we were playing more of the bend don't break defense like the bears play. The opponent's offense took several series of downs to go down the field and hopefully make a mistake (ie turnover). Our defense has more beef up front and an improved secondary depth. So we have been getting three and outs more often. Harder to generate turnovers when the other offense can't generate a drive. So, our defense has improved. We're just using the wrong stat to justify it. Ultimately, points matter most. Not yards or turnovers. Unfortunately, we're giving up a lot of points in garbage time. Out first half stats for our D has been money.

Katsuya's picture

Yeah DC tends to call too much soft coverage when we have a big lead, causing our D to give up garbage TDs. But at least he isn't doing it all game long, like before.

4thand1's picture

These f-in injuries. 1 week means 2to 4. 4 weeks seems like an eternity. the Packers will sit people forever, especially against weaker teams. Save em for when it counts.

denniseckersly's picture

I struggle to understand how swapping Quitler for McCown is going to result in more INTs for our defense....

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