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 email@example.com.