It's something that's talked about every week in the National Football League. Turn-overs. They're usually the deciding factor in whether a team wins or loses. It really doesn't matter who is playing, on what day, in what kind of weather. If you cannot protect the football, it's going to be tough to win football games.
I've talked about the turnover situation before. At the end of the regular football season the NFL looks back on the "Give-Away/Take-Away Margin." Statistically the team with the least amount of turnovers usually has one of the best records.
Over the past few years the teams with the best give-away/take-away margin has either won the Super Bowl or at least played in it.
Take a look at the season so far. The Bears and Ravens defense have done nothing but raise havoc throughout the league by taking the ball away from offenses, and either scoring with it themselves, or at least giving their own offense great field position. Statistically both teams are tops in the give-away/take-away category and both teams have winning records.
With 32 teams in the National Football League, every team is pretty talented. Green Bay has just as much talent as any other team in the NFL. Brett Favre is still an outstanding quarterback. His shortfall might be that he tries to do too much. This is still a team game. Donald Driver and the receiving core do an excellent job of getting open, catching the football and getting YAC - yards after a catch. The running backs are solid and the offensive line has shown a lot more consistency in its play.
On defense the Packers have one of the league's sack leaders in Aaron Kampman. They have two very good young rookie linebackers and a defensive backs group that's like most secondaries in the NFL. If you don't put pressure on the quarterback the defense will look pretty bad.
The Seahawks didn't play this game any better then Green Bay in the first half. Both teams turned the ball over. Green Bay's one interception in the first half really didn't hurt as bad as Seattle's three interceptions and a fumble recovery for a touchdown should have hurt them. In Seattle's first four drives, it had three interceptions, but Green Bay only came away with 7 points. The Packers turned the ball back over to Seattle with an interception and on three other series couldn't muster up a first down.
Falling short of making big plays
Green Bay's third down efficiency was horrendous. Is that because Seattle was doing something special on third down? I didn't see anything outstanding. They played some man-to-man on third and short. They also brought one extra blitzer and on third and long played a lot of Cover 2, which is five under two deep. What I did see was players not making plays in critical situations of the game.
The Packers had every opportunity in the first half to really make this a game. Even with all that, Green Bay headed into the locker room at halftime with a 14-12 lead.
The second half started out with a bang and Green Bay looked like it was going to make it a ballgame. Then something went totally wrong. On the next two drives Green Bay went three and out, and Seattle scored on four of their next five possessions to put the game out of reach.
The bottom line
So now the question is why didn't Green Bay respond like Seattle? I said both teams have players and every team is talented. Then what's Green Bay's situation?
Every week sportswriters sit down and try to tell you what's wrong with the team. Every week it's always something different. From what I see week in and week out, Green Bay has the same thing every team with a losing record has, the inability to protect the football, miscues at key times in the game, and players just not making enough plays. We always try and point the finger at poor coaching, bad offense or defensive football schemes, but every team has some type of issues. It's their jobs as professionals, both players and coaches, to take the responsibility each week to prepare and perform to the best of their ability and get the job done. No excuse. They get paid an outstanding salary and we expect outstanding results.
When you balance it out both Green Bay and Seattle turned the ball over. Four times for Seattle and four for Green Bay. What becomes the common denominator? If both teams turn the ball over then what's the deciding factor on who's going to win the game?
Seattle, like New England, knew what was at stake and was not going to be denied its victory. Seattle played at a faster tempo than Green Bay. The Packers look very perfunctory in their performance.
The deciding factor is players. The players from those other teams wanted it more. Their desire to win was greater. Yes, we all want to win but what's the cost that we're willing to pay?
Jerramy Stevens was getting booed the entire game. Did that stop his determination? No, he made a key catch in a pivotal situation to give his team the lead. Did Matt Hasselbeck put his head in the dirt (snow) when things weren't going his way in the first half? No, he came back in the second half and showed the country what quarterbacks do when the chips are down. There was one drive in the first half where the Packers had third and goal inside Seattle five yard line, the offense motioned to an empty backfield set, and Brett had a chance to make a completion to his receiver coming across the middle running wide open for a touchdown, but Brett hurried the throw for an incompletion.
If you want to win big games on the road then the quarterback has to make those types of plays. Were there other opportunities for players to make plays throughout the game? Yes. In order for teams to win games when both teams aren't playing at the top of their game then you have to execute the little things as close to perfection as you can. Key plays have to be made in key situations and it's the player's reasonability to make them.
In my opinion Green Bay lost this game because Seattle's players wanted it more than Green Bay's did. Again I know everyone wants to win, but how much are you willing to sacrifice for victory?
Editor's note: Ken Stills played safety for the Packers from 1985-89. E-mail Ken at KSt2983113@cs.com.