Packers notes: Defense on hunt for turnovers that 'can swing seasons'

Jim Owczarski
Packers News
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Green Bay Packers defensive back Tramon Williams (38) intercepts a pass and runs it back for a touhdown on a pass intended for Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (88) in the first quarter during their football game Thursday, August 16, 2018, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis.

GREEN BAY – Deflections, poorly thrown passes, miscommunication, broken routes — all precursors to the elusive turnover.

The Green Bay Packers defense sees how interceptions are collected around the league and “guys are not going out there just making it happen — these things are coming from bad balls and things like that,” cornerback Tramon Williams said.

“So you always want to put that in your head that you don’t want to go out and force it. At times, you will take those calculated risks, but you want to play sound football for the most part.”

And while the Packers have corrected the over-the-top deep ball and tackling issues they faced earlier in the season, they are in the bottom half of the league in forcing turnovers.

Through nine games, the team is tied for No. 19 with 11 takeaways (six fumbles, five interceptions).

And while Aaron Rodgers has just one interception in 355 passing attempts, the Packers don’t have a turnover differential as they have given it up 11 times as well. The Seahawks are tied for fourth with a plus-8 differential.

The caveat there is in their five losses, the Seahawks have turned it over seven times — including once in each of the last two games.

The Packers recovered a fumble and made an interception against Miami, the first turnovers they caused since forcing three against San Francisco on Oct. 15.

Perhaps it can be the start of another run of games where the defense does get the ball to the offense for extra possessions, like in the first four weeks of the season when they forced one turnover per game and seven in total.

“That can swing a game dramatically, man, and it can swing seasons,” Packers safety Josh Jones said. “Once you get a few turnovers, they come in bunches. They can definitely swing things.”

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson will present some opportunities, as he has thrown five interceptions and fumbled nine times (losing two). But, running backs Chris Carson, Mike Davis and Rashaad Penny have fumbled just once collectively in 243 combined carries.

“You have to take some risks at some point in the game,” Williams said. “But like I said, it’s going to be calculated.”

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What can help in that regard is the evening out of a pass rush, as the Packers have now climbed to the top of the NFL in team sacks with 31, tying them with Kansas City, Minnesota and Pittsburgh.

Fifteen different players have recorded at least a half sack on a quarterback, and on the road Thursday having such varied pressure looks could help force Wilson into throws that might result in a turnover.

“Hopefully it is confusing for them, like they never know where it could be coming from,” said Packers linebacker Kyler Fackrell, who is tied for the team lead in sacks with five. “It’s a good thing that we have been exotic and that we’ve been able to get pressure, obviously, and whatever we need to do to get that pressure we’ll do that.”

Seattle’s sound

It has been four years since the Packers last played in Seattle, but coach Mike McCarthy hasn’t forgotten the noise.

Even if the Seahawks crowd might get a little help.

“It’s a difficult place to play for everybody,” McCarthy said. “They have a home-field advantage. Their stereo system is the best in the league. You see that in pregame. It’s very clear.”

The “stereo system” could be a reference to CenturyLink Field’s acoustics as much as the actual sound system. Long considered the NFL’s loudest stadium, CenturyLink Field is designed as an echo chamber, making the Seahawks' famed 12th man sound all the louder.

“They’ve got great fans,” McCarthy said, “and the noise definitely fits their style of play, too. They’re an athletic defense, and it’s definitely a challenge. It’s a good atmosphere for the home team.”

Wait and see

Only two days since their last game — but also two days until their next game — the Packers were still trying to determine which players might be available this week.

The Packers practiced in the Don Hutson Center on Tuesday, usually reserved as the team’s off day. McCarthy said every player on the injury report would be in the rehab group. Their availability will be reconsidered when the Packers practice in Seattle on Wednesday.

“Tomorrow’s practice will be very similar to the way we practice on a Saturday,” McCarthy said.

Cornerback Kevin King and receiver Randall Cobb were among six players who did not practice Tuesday. Neither played last week because of hamstring injuries.

Tight end Jimmy Graham (precautionary, knee), outside linebacker Nick Perry (knee), safety Kentrell Brice (ankle) and offensive lineman Lucas Patrick (concussion) rode stationary bikes on the sideline.

The Packers announced that King, Cobb, Brice and Perry would not travel to Seattle with the team Tuesday. They conceivably could receive more treatment and then fly out to Seattle in time for the game, though it seemed unlikely.

Left tackle David Bakhtiari (knee), right tackle Bryan Bulaga (knee), cornerback Bashaud Breeland (groin) and inside linebacker Blake Martinez (ankle) were limited.

Rodgers was listed as a full participant.


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