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Packers-Cardinals in Review: Offensive failures doomed Green Bay defense in week 16

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It's no shocking revelation to say that turnovers will be a key on Saturday, but the extent to which the Green Bay offense hurt the defense against Arizona in week 16 is a bit staggering.

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The Green Bay Packers' loss to the Arizona Cardinals in week 16 was one of if not the lowest point of the season for Mike McCarthy's team. The 38-8 debacle resulted from issues in every phase of the game; however, the defensive issues that led to that unit allowing 24 points can be attributed, at least in part, to the offensive failures that put Dom Capers' unit in difficult positions throughout the game.

The problems on offense begin with the performance of the shorthanded offensive line. Without David Bakhtiari or Bryan Bulaga for most or all of the game, Don Barclay and Josh Walker allowed Dwight Freeney and Calais Campbell to run wild. Likewise, neither player provided much of a push in the run game, which averaged less than four yards per carry and failed to open things up for the pass.

Then, when repeatedly put in a difficult position by turnovers and put back on the field quickly after brief offensive series, the Packers' defense did not hold.

To illustrate how much of an impact the turnovers had on that game, take a look at this tweet from Zach Kruse of Bleacher Report:

A quick subtraction illustrates that the defense only gave up 10 points to Arizona when not put on the field following a turnover, but we find that both of those scores followed short, ineffective drives by the offense. Here's a look at Arizona's scoring drives in that game, along with the result of the Packers' offensive drive that preceded each score:

Cardinals Score Preceding Packers Drive
Larry Fitzgerald 2-yard TD (7 plays, 50 yards, 3:30 TOP) Punt (6 plays, 21 yards, 3:14 TOP)
Chandler Catanzaro 19-yard FG (9 plays, 72 yards, 5:02) Punt (6 plays, 5 yards, 3:17)
John Brown 7-yard TD (7 plays, 80 yards, 0:51) Interception (3 plays, 5 yards, 0:55)
David Johnson 14-yard TD (2 plays, 28 yards, 0:47) Fumble (1 play, 6 yards, 0:11)
Corey Redding 36-yard fumble return TD Fumble (9 plays, 27 yards, 4:28)
Jerraud Powers 7-yard fumble return TD Fumble (3 plays, -4 yards, 1:21)

It is plain to see from this breakdown that even on the two scores that did not follow a turnover, the defense was put in a difficult spot.

Looking at the offensive touchdowns scored by the Cardinals, we see that the Cardinals ripped off a long drive in a two-minute drill situation after Aaron Rodgers' interception. That pick squashed any momentum that the Packers had following Mike Daniels' interception in plus territory. The final offensive score of the day for Arizona was on their first drive of the second half. However, the defense was put on the field in a tough spot; James Starks fumbled on the first play of the half, giving Arizona the ball at the Green Bay 28.

Then there are the two fumble return scores, which need no explanation. Thus, we can see that every one of the Cardinals' scoring drives directly followed a failure by the Packers offense.

This analysis is by no means intended to absolve the Packers defense. The fact remains that they did allow 24 points, their worst showing of any game after the week 9 loss to the Panthers. However, I do argue that if they were not put in such dire circumstances by the offense, the final numbers would have looked better.

In recent weeks, the Packers' offense has also failed to take advantage when the defense has come up with big plays. Green Bay has forced five turnovers over their past three games, but have not turned a single one into points by the offense. In fact, the last time they scored off a turnover was during the week 15 game in Oakland, when they turned their two interceptions into two touchdowns.

The final point is that the Packers have given up as many or more turnovers than they have forced in every game since week 14's win over the Cowboys. In that span, they have finished even with the opposing team three times (two apiece in Oakland and against Minnesota and one each in Washington) and were -2 against Arizona.

This Saturday, the Packers offense must be better at maintaining control of the football, both in sustaining drives and avoiding giveaways. That in and itself will give the  and in all likelihood they must both win the turnover battle and score points off turnovers.