Opportunistic Bills struggle to win without takeaways

Eric Goska
Press-Gazette Media correspondent
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Buffalo Bills players celebrate Jerry Hughes' (55) touchdown on a fumble recovery Nov. 30 against the Cleveland Browns in Orchard Park, N.J.

There's a tried-and-true method for beating the Buffalo Bills, and it has worked for years.

No need to call an 800 number. No need to send money.

Loyal readers of this column – my thanks to both of you – will get this exclusive, inside scoop free of charge.

The Bills, Green Bay's opponent Sunday, are skilled at producing turnovers. The 28 they've created this season are second only to the 29 forced by the Houston Texans.

Problems arise, however, when Buffalo fails to dislodge the football. More than seven years have passed since the Bills last won a game in which their opponent did not commit a turnover.

No one is better at avoiding these potentially costly mistakes than the Packers. Their eight giveaways are a league low, and they have an outside chance of setting an NFL record for fewest in a season.

Should these teams stay true to form – and nothing in life or the NFL is guaranteed – Green Bay will secure win No. 11. That means adhering to the no-handout blueprint it has adopted in recent games.

Since 2007, all teams – with the notable exception of the New England Patriots – have struggled when the competition declines to turn the ball over. Only the Patriots (9-6) have a winning record in those types of games. The remainder of the league is a woeful 182-661-2 (.217).

The Bills bring up the rear. Their record (1-28) is unmatched in its futility, and they have dropped 28 in a row.

Buffalo last prevailed on Nov. 11, 2007. On that day, Ryan Lindell kicked a 34-yard field goal with 46 seconds left as the Bills edged the Dolphins 13-10 despite Miami's lack of a turnover.

That game, apparently, was out of character for the Dolphins. Since that day, Miami and New England have each recorded five turnover-free victories over Buffalo. No other team has more than two.

The Bills have suffered this type of loss twice this season. The Chargers didn't fumble or throw an interception in dispatching them 22-10 on Sept. 21. Three weeks later, the Patriots did the same in bouncing them 37-22.

Both losses occurred in Buffalo.

While the clean-slate crowd gives Buffalo fits, the team also struggles when it fails to create more turnovers than its opponents. Since that three-point victory in Miami, the Bills are 9-61 (.129) in games in which the turnover margin does not favor them.

Count the Packers among those that know how to avoid turnovers. Green Bay owns the best turnover differential in the NFL at plus-16. It is riding a four-game streak (franchise record) without an interception or lost fumble.

The Packers last offered up a handout on Nov. 9. Randall Cobb fumbled near the Bears' end zone late in the first half of Green Bay's 55-14 trouncing of its rival.

That was more than a month ago. The Packers have run 297 offensive plays since then. They've snapped for punts and field goals. They've run back kicks and interceptions.

Bottom line: They have gone about their business without misplacing the football.

This is ball security at its best, and it reflects the trend of less is more under coach Mike McCarthy. It is no coincidence that the three seasons with the fewest turnovers in team history have occurred on his watch: 16 in 2009 and 2012, and a record-low 14 in 2011.

The team visiting Buffalo on Sunday is on pace for 10. That would tie the NFL record shared by the 2010 Patriots and 2011 49ers.

Since 2006, the Packers are 37-5-1 (.872) in games in which they avoid a turnover. They are 7-0 this season.

Make that 8-0 if they follow the script they did four years ago. On Sept. 19, 2010, Green Bay was without turnover in 56 offensive plays and defeated the Bills 34-7 at Lambeau Field.

Extra point

Should the Packers not lose a fumble or throw an interception today in Buffalo, they would tie the 2009 team for most turnover-free games in a season with eight.

Regular-season series

Overall: Buffalo leads 7-4

At Ralph Wilson Stadium: Bills lead 5-0

Starting quarterbacks

Packers: Aaron Rodgers (68-32 overall; 1-0 vs. Buffalo)

Bills: Kyle Orton (40-39; 4-2 vs. Green Bay)

Once a Bill, now a Packer

Quarterback Matt Flynn (2013) is a former Bill.

Once a Packer, now a Bill

Defensive end Jarius Wynn (2009-10) is a former Packer.

No turnovers; no victory

Teams that have lost the most consecutive games in which their opponents did not commit a turnover. The year listed is the last in which a victory occurred.

No. Team Year

28 Bills 2007

22 Jaguars 2010

17 Cowboys 2009

17 Titans 2009

14 Giants 2008

11 Falcons 2012

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