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Packers’ defense should have chances for field-flipping turnovers against Rams

Jared Goff’s ball security has been seriously lacking

Los Angeles Rams v Washington Football Team Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

The Green Bay Packers’ offense has been exceptional at ball security this season. The Packers had the fewest turnovers in the NFL in the 2020 regular season, committing just 11 giveaways on five interceptions and six lost fumbles. Green Bay had two separate four-game stretches without committing a turnover, first over the first month of the season and again from weeks 12 through 16.

Indeed, the Packers only lost the turnover battle four times all season, and it should come as no surprise that this took place in all three of their losses. (The other game was a narrow, ugly 24-20 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.)

This impressive track record will be put to the test on Saturday by the Los Angeles Rams’ top-ranked defense. But the Packers should feel confident about their own defense finding ways to force turnovers from the Rams, a team that has been on the opposite side of the turnover battle throughout much of 2020.

Quarterback Jared Goff in particular has been guilty of giving opponents good field position this season. Goff threw 13 interceptions in 15 games, tying for the third-most picks in the NFL and ranking 12th in interception rate. Goff’s recent numbers have been even worse, with seven of his picks coming over his last six starts. And to make matters worse, he also fumbled the football seven times in the regular season, with Rams opponents recovering four of them.

All told, the Rams committed 25 turnovers in the 2020 regular season, which ranked as the eighth-highest number in the NFL. One of the more bizarre statistical oddities in the league this year is that Los Angeles gave the football away at least once in every single regular season game of 2020. In doing so, the Rams ended the season minus-3 in overall turnover differential and they lost the turnover battle in eight of 16 games, going 3-5 in those games.

It is notable, however, that Los Angeles finally pitched a shutout in the turnover department against the Seahawks in their Wild Card game.

Turnovers are always a key component of any football game, but they should take on particular importance for the Packers this weekend. Creating takeaways of course sets a team’s offense up with a shorter field, which is that much more critical against an elite defense like that of the Rams. Not only did Los Angeles allow the fewest total yards and points of any team in the regular season, but they also averaged the fewest yards and points per drive, a sign that their performance is not a function of fewer possessions.

The Packers’ defense should be in attack mode on Sunday, particularly in the passing game. Pressuring Goff will be critical, and should result in him throwing some balls that the Packers’ ball-hawking secondary can get its hands on.

An effective pass rush should also lead to chances to strip Goff of the football, and the Rams’ pass protection has struggled mightily over the last month. Although they allowed just 25 total sacks in the regular season, eight of them came in the last three games, with the Seahawks notching another three sacks in the Wild Card game. That, plus the potential for left guard David Edwards to miss the game due to injury, should tee up some opportunities for the Packers’ pass-rushers to strip Goff of the football. Za’Darius Smith led the Packers with four forced fumbles this season, and with Goff still nursing an injured thumb on his throwing hand, his ball security will be even more questionable.

If the Packers avoid committing turnovers on offense, they should be in good shape on Saturday. The defense should have opportunities to cash in on the Rams’ — and in particular Goff’s — questionable ball security, giving Green Bay a field position boost that could make a the difference between drives ending in punts vs. field goals or field goals vs. touchdowns. So long as the Packers end up on the positive side of the turnover differential, they should be able to advance and host the NFC Championship Game a week from Sunday.