Stills: Turnovers, penalties always a key

Former Packers safety Ken Stills explains how Green Bay's ability to limit turnovers and reduce penalties were key factors in their win over the Atlanta Falcons last Sunday. Stills also looks ahead to what the Packers must do to get revenge against the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night at Lambeau Field.

Each week I try and make it a point to discuss what I think are the positive and negative aspects from each Green Bay Packers game. As you read this column throughout the year, you're going to realize that what applies to the Packers also applies to every team in football. If a team can control turnovers, limit penalties and play within the scheme of the offense and defense, that team will have a much greater chance of winning the football game.

This past weekend, against the Falcons, Green Bay limited their mistakes. If you look at the turnover situation, Atlanta had three turnovers and Green Bay had one. The Packers recovered three fumbles, which led to 14 Packer points. Green Bay's only turnovers, the interception by Favre, led to Falcon points. A 3-1 ratio, obviously in the Packers favor.

The Packers won the penalty battle as Green Bay did a nice job of limiting them to four while the Falcons doubled that with eight. The Packers also won in time of possession. This is a great sign that the offense is playing within its scheme. By winning all three of these phases (penalties, turnovers and time of possession) this increases a team's chances for victory substantially. The Packers were very efficient on both offense and defense throughout the course of the game.

What can you say? Green Bay was able to limit its turnovers to one interception and their young running back, Samkon Gado, rushed for 103 yards. Having this success running the football allowed the Packers to control the clock. Brett Favre did a nice job of throwing short, controlled passes down the field and he made key plays when needed. That's the job of the quarterback. From week to week he is the one steady player Green Bay has to count on.

Credit Coach Sherman for making some key adjustments in the passing game. Sherman knew Atlanta had great speed and quickness on the defensive line so adding short passes to the game plan worked to Green Bay's advantage. The offensive line only gave up one sack and accumulated 351 total offensive yards against a defense that's pretty solid.

Gado did a great job in earning Player of the Week Honors but if he continues to put the football on the ground I guarantee he'll be watching from the sidelines in the weeks to come. It's amazing how a guy who's this good barely makes his college football club as a starter, moves into the starting lineup on an NFL roster, and then has everyone is singing his praise. A good friend of mine here in California said it best, " The NFL is all about opportunity." Isn't that the truth! Offensively, the Packers must continue to take advantage of opportunities when they are presented.

The defensive coaches must be reading!:) Whenever they bring pressure, they disrupt the quarterback. The defensive front four gives great effort on every play and bring as much heat as they possibly can but this is a defensive line built to stop the run, not pressure the quarterback. I truly believe that the way the Packers defensive line played this past weekend benefited the Packer defense. By not being so aggressive, rushing up field and forming rush lanes, it gave Michael Vick fewer lanes to escape out of the pocket. This, in effect, didn't allow him the usual running lanes up the middle.

The defensive line and linebackers also did a fine job of containment. Each man played within the scheme of the defense, executing their assignment, and in effect performed well within a solid game plan. The Packers put pressure on the quarterback effectively, blitzing an extra linebacker or defensive back often. The defensive game plan was to pressure Vick. The idea was to force him into reading coverages with a defender in his face while also containing him within the pocket. Vick only had 24 yards rushing. Considering he leads the NFL in quarterback rushing yards, the Packers were very effective containing him.

The Packers also held one of the top-ranked rushing offensives to 133 yards and forced three key turnovers to put Green Bay's offense in scoring position. Vick did, however, have some success throwing the ball. He had a passer rating of 108, which in most games would put the offense in a good position to win the game.

Again, the key stat was the three turnovers. That's what really hurt the Falcons' offense. I give credit to the Packers defense for coming in ready to play and executing Coach Bates game plan close to perfection.

Keep it going against Vikings
This week, against the Vikings, the Packers need to look at the game film from their Oct. 23 game. Take the game plan from the first half of that game and bottle it up for four quarters. Use the short, quick passing game and attack their three-man defensive front with the running game. Minnesota uses the 3-4 defense (three down linemen and four linebackers) much like the Falcons. The Packers need to eliminate the penalties and be turnover-free.

On defense they need to make the Vikings one-dimensional. Force their back up quarterback, Brad Johnson, to beat them with the passing game. Once that happens Green Bay must bring the pressure. They must get into the quarterback's face and pressure him into making quick, split decisions. They need to avoid pass interference calls, continue to create turnovers and play within the scheme of the defense.

With Daunte Culpepper out for the season and Minnesota playing with a back-up quarterback, it's a great opportunity for the Packers to make a run in the NFC North Division.

Former safety Ken Stills played for the Green Bay Packers from 1985-89. He is currently an assistant coach with the Frankfurt Galaxy of NFL Europe.

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