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Eric Goska column: Packers turn turnover-free effort into another win

Dec. 25, 2011
 

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Packers-Bears postgame analysis: Rob Demovsky and Pete Dougherty look at the difference in the Packers' offense from last week's loss at Kansas City and discuss how Mike McCarthy will approach next week's game against Detroit.
Green Bay Packers safety Charlie Peprah returns an interception in the third quarter Sunday night against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field. / Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette

Stick-to-itiveness

Seasons in which the Packers committed the fewest turnovers.

TOs Year Record
12* 2011 14-1
16 2009 11-5
19 1972 10-4
21 1995 11-5
21 2008 6-10
22 1994 9-7
22 2010 10-6
23 1964 8-5-1
*Through 15 games

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The Packers did not commit a turnover in dispatching the Bears 35-21 before a festive crowd at Lambeau Field. That in itself is an accomplishment.

Packers-Bears has always been a rough-and-tumble rivalry. Both teams would just as soon dislodge the football as make a tackle.

Turnovers have been a part of the series dating to 1921. Regular-season or postseason, it is 184 games and counting with at least one lost ball by one or both of the the principals involved.

Green Bay has been particularly good at protecting the ball this season. With one game to play it has just 12 turnovers.

The team record is 16 set by the 2009 club. That’s the first time the Packers averaged but one turnover per game.

Ball security has improved as the game has evolved. Green Bay under coach Mike McCarthy has been at the leading edge in that movement in recent years.

With McCarthy at the helm, the trend has been downward. Beginning in 2006, the Packers have had 33, 24, 21, 16, 22 and 12 turnovers.

In fact, since 2006 only the Patriots (111 turnovers) and the Falcons (125) have had fewer. Green Bay and New England are the only teams to have fewer than 25 in each season since 2007.

The Bears, meanwhile, are great at separating ball from body. Since 2006, their 200 forced turnovers rank No. 1.

On Christmas, though, they couldn’t steal one. Whether it was tight end Jermichael Finley getting flipped head over heels on his first reception or Randall Cobb going airborne on a punt return in the third quarter, Green Bay hung on to the ball.

Even the two onside kicks Chicago attempted — situations ripe for mad scrambles — went out of bounds eliminating the possibility of fumbles.

In 90 years of clashing with the Bears, the Packers have gone without a turnover 18 times. Their record in those games is 15-3, and the team has won the last 12 in a row dating to 1956, when they lost 37-21.

In 95 regular-season outings, McCarthy’s team has played turnover-free ball 28 times. Green Bay is 24-4 when doing so.

Only five Packers have been guilty of turnovers this season: Aaron Rodgers (6), Randall Cobb (3), Matt Flynn, Ryan Grant and James Starks. Cobb, Grant and Starks have lost a combined six fumbles and that total — if not added to in the finale against the Lions — would tie the team low (1943, 1995) for fewest in a season.

The NFL record for fewest turnovers in a season (10) is out of reach. That mark was set by the Patriots last year.

But the Packers have an excellent shot at joining the 10 teams in league history that committed fewer than one turnover per game.

On the flip side, Chicago isn’t alone in forcing turnovers. Green Bay got two against the Bears as safety Charlie Peprah and linebacker Clay Matthews each intercepted quarterback Josh McCown.

Those two thefts make 195 for the team since 2006, just five behind the Bears.

This season, the Packers have 34 takeaways, second behind the 36 of the 49ers. With just 12 giveaways, the team is plus-22 in the all important turnover differential.

Being up by 20 in that area hasn’t happened often. Eight previous Packers teams have done so with the record of plus-26 set in 1943.

While Aaron Rodgers and the offense couldn’t cash in on Matthews’ steal, they did so on Peprah’s pick. Rodgers needed just three plays to move 33 yards with the payoff coming on a 2-yard TD pass to receiver Jordy Nelson.

Green Bay has scored 111 points as the result of opponents turnovers this year. It’s the fourth year in a row the team has surpassed 100 points, tying the team record set from 1960-63.

Eric Goska is a Press-Gazette correspondent, a Packers historian and the author of “Green Bay Packers: A Measure of Greatness,” a statistical history of the Packers. Email him at aegoska@sbcglobal.net.

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