Last season, Green Bay Packers’ offense fell into a funk the depths of which hadn’t been seen since before Ron Wolf traded for Brett Favre.
One of the offensive strengths that didn’t deteriorate was its ability to protect the football and not beat itself with turnovers. Last season, the Packers tied for fourth in the NFL with 17 giveaways — their eighth top-10 finish in the past nine seasons. Their turnover count was the fifth-fewest in franchise history.
That, however, is only part of the story. During Green Bay’s 6-0 start, it turned over the ball four times — once vs. Seattle in Week 2 and three times vs. St. Louis in Week 5. Even after losing three consecutive games, the Packers had just six turnovers through the first 10 games. But in the final six games, the Packers had 11 giveaways.
With playoff seeding and NFC North bragging rights on the line, the Packers gave away the football two times in a home loss to Chicago, four times in an embarrassing loss at Arizona and two more times in the Week 17 showdown vs. Minnesota that cost the team its division stranglehold.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers didn’t have a good season by his lofty standards but he did toss a manageable eight interceptions. That's not unusual — Rodgers owns the lowest interception percentage in NFL history. The larger problem was fumbles. James Starks had five fumbles (three lost); he entered the season with five fumbles in his first five seasons combined. Eddie Lacy had four fumbles (two lost); he entered the season with four fumbles in his first two seasons combined. Starks’ fumbling woes, in particular, hurt the offense because he was the team’s most productive running back but couldn’t be trusted to carry the load.
“You’ve got to hold onto the football,” coach Mike McCarthy said after Starks fumbled during the regular-season loss to Arizona. “That’s been the case for 10 years now. If you don’t take care of the football you won’t play.”
Turnovers, of course, are the deciding factor in most games. Green Bay went 6-2 when it had zero giveaways and 2-0 when it had only one. That’s an 8-2 mark with one or fewer turnovers and a 2-4 record with two or more turnovers. Looking back to the start of the 2009 season, Green Bay is 43-7-1 with zero giveaways and 33-14 with one giveaway. That’s a combined 76-21-1 with one or fewer giveaways, a winning percentage of .781. With two or more giveaways, the record is 28-34 — a winning percentage of .452.
The chart below ranks teams by the number of giveaways since the start of the 2008 season — a timeline corresponding with Rodgers’ time at quarterback. The Patriots and Packers rank first and second, respectively, in winning percentage and turnovers. Of the top 14 teams in giveaways, 12 have winning records.
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.