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Wednesday, November 5, 2008 9:56:38 PM(UTC)
[img_r]http://media.jsonline.com/images/440*399/pack110408.jpg[/img_r]Green Bay - It's so hard to stop thinking about the one that got away.
And in a tough, close loss at Tennessee, where a victory could have been a huge boost for Green Bay, three of them did.
Now there are a million things that already top the list of concerns for the Packers, from decision-making to red zone ineptitude to the run game.
But takeaway opportunities are another. In Green Bay's four victories this season, the Packers had late interceptions in all of them and in three of those games, the interceptions determined the outcome in Green Bay's favor.
At Tennessee, three potential turnovers fell on the ground. After the 19-16 overtime loss, the Packers gave the impression they were kicking themselves a little.
"The team that wins the turnover ratio has much larger winning percentages than the other team," secondary coach Kurt Schottenheimer said. "Along with explosive plays, those are two biggest factors.
"And when you score on defense or special teams, you're probably looking 75% to 95% chance of winning."
Maybe that's one way to look at the first half of the Packers' season. As the defense goes, so go the Packers.
Green Bay's defense has saved the day before with big time interceptions:
Against Minnesota, Atari Bigby's interception late in the fourth quarter killed the Vikings' final drive, allowing the Packers to hold on for a 24-19 victory.
At Detroit, the Packers surrendered 16 points in the fourth quarter and were clinging to a 27-25 lead when Charles Woodson intercepted the Lions twice. The first led to a touchdown by the Packers, and the second he returned himself for a 41-yard score. Nick Collins capped the game with another 42-yard interception return for a touchdown.
At Seattle, Woodson's fourth-quarter interception led to a 51-yard field goal by the Packers and a commanding 27-10 lead before Tramon Williams added another interception to kill any hope for the Seahawks.
Even against Indianapolis, with the game well in hand, the Packers picked up a third-quarter interception by Collins (which he returned for a 62-yard touchdown) and a fourth-quarter interception by Aaron Rouse (which killed a very long drive). Those interceptions weren't game-changers but they took a lot of pressure off Green Bay's offense and padded the lead.
Now, consider what happened Sunday at Tennessee:
In the first quarter, neither Al Harris nor Collins yelled "I got it" loud enough because they both went up for a free ball, and they both tumbled down empty-handed.
"Al never looked behind him; all he saw was the ball," Schottenheimer said. "Nick never saw him; his eyes were on the ball. As close as they were together, you'd think, 'I got it!' Or, 'Me me me!' But unfortunately we had a foul on that play so it would have been taken away from us."
Packers linebacker Brady Poppinga was called for a 15-yard penalty.
At the start of the fourth quarter, defensive end Mike Montgomery's outstretched arms nearly hauled in an interception but his tip - he couldn't hold on - might have prevented an interception by Collins, who was breaking on the ball.
With the score tied at 16-16 and 4 minutes 37 seconds left, Bigby couldn't complete the play after getting his hands on a pass downfield. As his momentum made him fall backward, the interception slipped away at the last second.
"He was in great shape to make the play, but the receiver tipped the ball," Schottenheimer said.
Three chances, which coach Mike McCarthy said were all legitimate takeaway shots for his defense, yielded no interceptions. In a game on the road, where maybe a play or two can make the difference, any of those might have been a factor.
"We practice turnovers every day," McCarthy said. "We have a drill in our practice format that's ball security. It's based on taking the ball away. There's different types of drills that we do, and also on the other side of the ball, drills to make sure we take care of the football. We're counting on those opportunities. Those are opportunities in the football game that you have to make plays."
The Packers lead the league with 13 interceptions and with five returned for touchdowns. Though it might be unrealistic to expect them to continue at that pace, generating turnovers remains a team priority. Defensive coordinator Bob Sanders said they worked on it every day, from the secondary to the line, focusing on catching balls, stripping ball-carriers and diving on the ground for recovered fumbles.
"Our goal is to get a couple turnovers a game," Sanders said. "Our goal is to do whatever it takes to help the team win. We want to give our offense as many opportunities as we can because we have a lot of playmakers on offense, and the more opportunities your offense gets, it certainly helps us win points."
The Packers insist they haven't fallen into the trap of expecting their defense to bail them out every week.
"We had a ton of opportunities (Sunday). My goodness, we moved the ball up and down the field," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. "We had six possessions on their side of the field - not counting the touchdown that we had - and we only had nine points. I don't think our guys are sitting around waiting for the defense to make a play. We look at it as we had a bunch of chances to make it on our own and unfortunately we weren't as productive as we should have been."
There's no question that Green Bay's defense has directly contributed to the successful outings so far.
"It's not a matter of counting on them to win the game," running back Ryan Grant said. "When we win the turnover battle, we win the game. When we lose the turnover battle, we lose. Plain and simple as that."
Thursday, November 6, 2008 4:20:21 PM(UTC)
Thursday, November 6, 2008 9:15:36 PM(UTC)
This is true with all teams...
Thursday, November 6, 2008 10:42:21 PM(UTC)
Yeah. I gotta say it is interesting hearing reporters ask the same questions every year like the game changes haha. Hey they've got to write stories ya know.
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