Notebook: Focus Put on Turnovers

Green Bay is a league-best plus-18 in turnovers this season, including a 4-0 edge in the Week 1 game against Chicago. Plus, the line leads the Chicago defense and more from Thursday.

The defining statistic when the Packers beat the Bears in Week 1 was Green Bay's 4-0 edge in turnovers.

Since then, the Packers and Bears have continued down the same path. The Packers are a league-best plus-18 in turnovers and boast an 8-4 record heading into Sunday's game at Chicago. Chicago is minus-4 in turnovers and is 5-7.

"The Packers do a great job of taking the ball away, something we'll have to be on top of," Bears coach Lovie Smith told reporters in Chicago on Thursday. "On the other side, we have to meet that challenge with our defense. This time of the year is about ball security on one side of the ball and taking the ball away on the other end. That's the stat that will have a lot to do with who wins the football game."

That's been true for the Packers, who haven't lost the ball on a running play all season. They've won the turnover battle in 10 of 12 games this season, going 8-2 in those games. They lost both games in which they lost the turnover battle — home vs. Minnesota in Week 4 and at Tampa Bay in Week 9. The Bears are 4-1 when winning the turnover battle this year and 0-5 when losing it. Smith is 29-7 when the Bears have won the turnover battle in his six years.

While the Packers have forced a second-ranked 31 turnovers, the Bears have been decent with 21 takeaways. Of those, the Bears rank seventh in the league with 10 fumble recoveries.

Mention the word "fumble" during Bears Week, and the conversation inevitably turns to cornerback Charles Tillman.

"Hands down, he's one of the best," receiver Greg Jennings said. He went on to relay an exchange of text messages with the Cardinals' phenomenal Larry Fitzgerald. "I told him, ‘Watch Tillman. You get the ball, catch it and tuck it high and tight, because he is going to try and get that ball out.' We're definitely aware of what he does. He has a knack for it."

Talking defense

The Packers beat the Bears in Week 1 on Aaron Rodgers' 50-yard touchdown pass to Greg Jennings. The Bears' defense was a handful in that game — due mostly to left end Adewale Ogunleye dominating his matchup with right tackle Allen Barbre — but their linebacking corps has lost Brian Urlacher and Pisa Tinoisamoa to season-ending injuries.

The Bears might rank 15th in total defense (25th vs. rush, ninth vs. pass), but offensive coordinator Joe Philbin sees a high-effort, run-to-the-ball unit that's led by the defensive line.

"I think 93 (Ogunleye), obviously he had a great game against us and I think he's been playing well," Philbin said. "I think he's showing up on tape more than I recall in recent memory. I think he's having a really good year. I think Tommie Harris, it looks to me like his explosion is kind of coming back after dealing with his various injuries. I think some of that's impacted his ability to really let it loose, but I think he's showing more of his old form, that explosiveness that we all know he has."

Packers injury report

Out — LB Jeremy Thompson (neck). Did not participate — NT Ryan Pickett (hamstring). Limited participation — LB Nick Barnett (knee); T Chad Clifton (hamstring); TE Jermichael Finley (knee); DE Cullen Jenkins (hamstring); DE Johnny Jolly (knee); NT B.J. Raji (ankle); CB Charles Woodson (shoulder).

"They're getting better," McCarthy said of his top four defensive linemen. "Tomorrow will be a big day, like it normally is. They're all confident that they're going to play, but I've said this before, the doctors tell you otherwise. Tomorrow will be a big day for those guys."

Barnett, meanwhile, will "need the full week" to recover from a knee sprain.

Bears injury report

Did not participate — WR Devin Hester (groin). Limited participation — T Orlando Pace (groin). Full participation — LB Lance Briggs (knee); DT Tommie Harris (knee); ; LB Hunter Hillenmeyer (groin)DT Israel Idonije (knee).

Hester, the Bears' leading receiver with 54 catches and 682 yards, hasn't practiced this week. Rookie Johnny Knox would get the start if Hester can't go.

"It's a big opportunity when you get more snaps," Knox told reporters on Thursday. "When somebody goes down, you've always got to be ready to step in and make big plays. Devin's a big part of this offense. We would miss him, but we'd have to keep doing what we're doing."

Four-point stance

— In 11 career starts vs. division foes, Rodgers has thrown for 22 touchdowns and four interceptions with a passer rating of 108.3. He's topped a 100 rating in his last four games against NFC North rivals.

— This will be regular-season game No. 178 in the series. Including Green Bay's come-from-behind victory in Week 1, the Packers trail 90-81-6. The Packers are 18-18 at Soldier Field but have won 12 of the last 16 meetings there.

Donald Driver scored his 50th career touchdown last week against Baltimore. He's the 10th player in team history to reach that milestone. Don Hutson leads with 105, followed by Jim Taylor (91) and Ahman Green (65).

— Last season, Charles Woodson and Nick Collins had seven interceptions apiece. This season, Woodson has seven and Collins has five. The only other pair with at least five interceptions is Philadelphia's Asante Samuel (seven) and Sheldon Brown (five).


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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 and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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