We resort to such basic football definitions because turnovers have become an unknown entity this season. The Packers entered Monday night's game against St. Louis tied for last in the league with eight forced turnovers but walked out of Lambeau Field victorious thanks in large part to two fumble recoveries and an interception.
In a game in which the Packers' improving defense was cut down several notches by a star-studded Rams offense, a harried secondary made three standout plays to keep the Packers' winning streak alive and well heading into Sunday's showdown at Philadelphia.
Not even 10 plays into Monday night's game, rookie third-round pick Joey Thomas made a textbook tackle and knocked the ball away from Isaac Bruce, one of the finest wide receivers of the era. Rookie first-round pick Carroll was Johnny on the spot, picking the ball off the turf and racing 40 yards for a game-opening touchdown.
It was the Packers' first fumble recovery since the Chicago game way back in mid-September.
The Rams, who had trailed 21-3, were threatening to make a game of it with their first drive of the third quarter. Trailing 21-10 but on the march, the Rams picked up a free first down when Carroll was flagged for defensive holding on third-and-3. Given new life with a first down at the Packers' 30, Rams quarterback Marc Bulger went after Carroll again by lofting a pass to Bruce in the end zone up the right sideline. The 5-foot-9 Carroll, however, won the jump ball and came down with his first career interception.
With the game well in hand in the final moments, Darren Sharper made a big hit on Bruce, who coughed up the ball again. Michael Hawthorne was there and received an escort up the right sideline for the final score of the night with a 33-yard touchdown return.
The Rams finished with 452 yards but the Packers' defense made just enough plays to keep them from scoring too often.
"The Rams are going to move the ball. You have to anticipate them scoring," Packers quarterback Brett Favre said. "Our defense, I must admit at times I get worried, but they never let me down. They bend a little bit, but they always come up with a play. I have to give those guys credit. ... Look at Ahmad Carroll and Joey Thomas — probably one of the bigger plays, if not the biggest play of the night. Our defense has just made play after play. They have given up some, but they have just held strong."
The Packers have been allowing nearly 100 yards less per game in the six-game winning streak as opposed to their 1-4 start. The run defense, once ranked 31st in the league, entered the game ranked 12th; a figure that likely will improve after shutting down St. Louis' talented backs to the tune of 47 yards on 17 attempts. Future hall of famer Marshall Faulk gained only 7 yards on seven rushes, and 6 of those yards came on one carry.
On the down side, Bulger completed 35 of 53 passes for 448 yards, the most ever given up by the Packers. Bruce generally had his way with Carroll, but Al Harris held Torry Holt to five catches for 51 yards. The Rams' supporting cast — especially Nos. 3 and 4 receivers Shaun McDonald and Kevin Curtis, who combined for 12 catches for 137 yards — exposed the lack of depth in the secondary.
"I think our defense did a tremendous job against a very explosive offense by containing them to only 17 points," Packers coach Mike Sherman said. "That is a very hard thing to do. They are very explosive and can score anytime. I know we gave up some yardage butt we kept them out of the end zone."