Interceptions Outweigh Yards

Scott Tolzien has done a lot of things in well in putting up some prolific passing numbers. In a league in which more games are lost than won, he's thrown five interceptions in two games. Compare that to Aaron Rodgers' six picks in all of 2011.

Grading on a curve, Scott Tolzien has been outstanding in his two games.

Tolzien has thrown for 619 yards, a pretty incredible number considering he hadn't taken a snap in a game that counts since the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 2011. Over the course of a 16-game season, that would be 4,952 yards. That would be more than 300 yards better than Aaron Rodgers' franchise record.

The mistakes, however, have killed the Green Bay Packers in back-to-back games against mediocre NFC East opponents. In matching 27-13 losses to the Eagles and Giants, Tolzien has thrown five interceptions.

"Everybody's going to talk about his three interceptions (and) the responsibility of the quarterback to take care of the football," coach Mike McCarthy told reporters after Sunday's loss, in which Tolzien threw three interceptions. "I think you can't look past all the positive things that he did. We have to be real honest about it. Everybody knows it. Five interceptions in two games is something that will be addressed. I felt he really improved in a lot of areas today playing in our system."

During his MVP season of 2011, Rodgers threw six interceptions in 502 attempts. His career interception percentage of 1.71 is best in NFL history by a wide margin, with Tom Brady (2.05 percent) a distant second.

So, from 2009 through the first half of 2013, it wasn't just the plays that Rodgers made. It was the mistakes he didn't make.

Comparing Tolzien to Rodgers, of course, is unfair. Still, facts are facts: Tolzien is making far too many mistakes, as he was the first to admit after the game.

Last week against the Eagles, an end-zone interception on what should have been an easy touchdown to Jordy Nelson took seven points off the board. On Sunday against the Giants, his first interception – when he simply didn't see linebacker Jon Beason in the passing lane – thwarted a promising drive and handed the Giants three points. Later, with Green Bay riding some momentum, Tolzien threw a pick-six to Jason Pierre-Paul. To be sure, it was a brilliant individual play by Pierre-Paul. However, it's the kind of play that just hasn't happened to the Packers over the last several seasons. The last of the interceptions could almost be shruggled off based on the situation, with the Packers trailing by 14 at the two-minute warning and Marshall Newhouse allowing immediate pressure.

"The first thing you do after a game like this is you evaluate yourself," Tolzien said. "And, three turnovers, that's the bottom line. Those are killers. The guys work too hard and that's on me completely."

The Packers haven't finished outside the top 10 in interception percentage since 2006, when they finished 12th with Brett Favre at quarterback in McCarthy's first season. Because of Tolzien's five interceptions, the Packers will end the week somewhere around 21st.

If Tolzien can cut down on the miscues, he's got an incredibly bright future. He's tough, smart and incredibly hard-working. After two seasons of rag-armed Graham Harrell, Tolzien's ability to push the ball down the field is impressive. Even with the sure-tackling Giants all-but eliminating the Packers' run-after-catch prowess, Tolzien completed five passes of at least 25 yards.

Tolzien, however, was in no mood to look at the positives.

"It's hard to look past the three interceptions. That's my focus right now, correcting that," he said.

Nor was he in any mood to lobby to remain in the starting lineup for Sunday's win-or-bust game against Minnesota, with Matt Flynn waiting in the bullpen.

"My job is to control what I can control," he said. "I'm not here to say I should or shouldn't play. It's my job first and foremost to take care of the football. Guys were (playing) their tails off and that's Football 101. From the time you're playing youth ball to every level, that's the starting point for a quarterback. And I did not do that today, and you gotta learn from it. Saying it's one thing. You've got to learn from it, truthfully."

Presumably, the Packers' playoff fate boils down to Tolzien. Can he continue making plays while ridding himself of crippling mistakes?

"Yes, I think Scott can lead this team to get a victory," receiver James Jones said. "We've lost three in a row. It's not all on Scott by any means. This is a team game. Everybody wants to look at the quarterback first. A lot of things to into it, though. Scott just needs to keep on doing what he's doing and we'll be OK."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

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