Takeaway Well Still Running Dry

Tramon Williams broke the team's three-game streak without an interception but it wasn't nearly enough from the defense. After four takeaways vs. Cincinnati in Week 3, the Packers have forced four turnovers in the last seven games and are on a record-setting pace.

The Green Bay Packers won't turn around this season until they can turn around the turnover column.

Since forcing four turnovers against Cincinnati in Week 3, the Packers have forced four in the last seven games. Tramon Williams snapped the team's three-game streak without an interception and his 23-game streak without an interception, but only because the Giants' receiver took his route inside and Eli Manning threw it to the outside.

"We talk about it as a football team, going into each and every game about winning the turnover ratio, and we're not doing it," coach Mike McCarthy said after a 27-13 loss to the Giants.

To say this is an unprecedented drought under defensive coordinator Dom Capers would be the understatement of all understatements.

From 2009 through 2012, the Packers were third in the league with 133 takeaways. That was an average of 2.08 per game. Their 103 interceptions during that span were a whopping 17 more than second-place New England and a staggering 25 more than third-place Chicago.

This season, the Packers have forced just nine turnovers, including four interceptions. Their three-game stretch without an interception was a first under Capers.

For the last several weeks, Capers and the assistants have maintained that turnovers come in bunches and the tide eventually will turn. But other than the Cincinnati game, the tide continues to go out.

Entering this week's games, the Jets and Steelers had forced a league-low seven turnovers, with Green Bay, Houston and Atlanta tied for 30th with eight. Nobody had intercepted fewer passes than Green Bay's pregame total of three.

For more perspective, the 2004 squad owns the dubious records of 15 takeaways and eight interceptions. The Packers have forced fewer than 21 turnovers just twice and never fewer than 10 interceptions in team history. Both marks in danger of falling.

Entering the game, Manning had more turnovers by himself than 30 of the other 31 teams. Other than Williams' interception and a contested opportunity by Davon House (on the same possession as Williams' pick), the Packers didn't have many chances. Clay Matthews got his hands on a couple of passes but the ball didn't bounce toward any defenders. The pass rush was an all-or-nothing affair for most of the game. Manning was sacked four times but didn't feel much pressure, otherwise.

"With Aaron down, it's time for other guys to pick their game up – and that includes the D," Matthews said. "Stopping them, giving the ball back to our offense is great, and that's what we strive for, but we need to create turnovers. Tramon's in the red zone was real big for us, and just getting off the field in general. Obviously we strive for that, and who knows? Maybe I would've had two if I didn't have a cast on. I'll use that as an excuse for another week."

Contrast Green Bay's lack of big plays on defense to the Giants' defense. New York intercepted Scott Tolzien three times, including a tremendous individual play by Jason Pierre-Paul on his pick-six. That's the kind of singular play the Packers simply haven't gotten this season.

"As a defense we definitely need to do that," Hawk said. "You saw how that can change the course of a game. We had the momentum at the time, and that's a huge play. You have to give them credit. But defensively, we need to start doing stuff like that. I think Tramon's interception was huge; took points off the board. It was big. If we can find a way to multiply that and keep doing it, and get the ball out on some of these sacks we got today, it would've been nice. If you want to be a dominant defense, you have to make those plays."

The Packers are now minus-6 on turnovers. They have never finished a season in the negative under McCarthy. Even in 2008, when the Packers finished 6-10, they were plus-7.

"Our yearly statistics speak for themselves both on the takeaways and particularly on the giveaways the last two weeks," McCarthy said. "You have to take care of the football, no ifs and buts, consequences and all that other stuff about it."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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