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Response To 'Sudden Change' A Critical Moment


Turnovers create perhaps the biggest momentum shifts during a football game. For the team that gives the ball up, what can exacerbate the momentum swing is the opposing offense gashing the defense for a big gain right away.

That's what ultimately devastated the Packers on Sunday in their 34-27 loss to the New Orleans Saints. The offense turned the ball over twice, and both times the Saints responded with a big play on the very first snap, taking the momentum and running with it.

It's a scenario that unfolds in nearly every NFL game, and the Packers expect their response to be much stronger this week in Detroit.

"We just have to keep our composure when we go out there after a sudden change," linebacker Nick Barnett said. "We gave up those explosive plays after those sudden changes, and you can't allow that."

To recap, Green Bay's first turnover on Sunday came on the opening drive of the second half with the Packers trailing 14-13 and in position to re-take the lead. On first-and-goal, Brett Favre was hit as he tried to throw, and the ball floated in the end zone and was intercepted.

On first down from their own 20, the Saints struck it big immediately. Receiver Joe Horn turned a quick slant pass into a 57-yard gain, setting up a field goal.

The other turnover came right after the Saints scored to go ahead 27-20. Ahman Green fumbled on the ensuing series, and one play later the Saints were in the end zone again on Deuce McAllister's 23-yard TD run.

Two turnovers, two snaps, and 80 yards that produced 10 points.

Those were the turning points in the game that were discussed in the team meetings on Monday, with the emphasis on the defense needing to find a way to limit the damage in those situations.

It's not easy, when a defender is rushed back onto the field unexpectedly, but it's a time when focus is paramount to prevent the game from getting away.

"It's a mindset you have to get into -- time to buckle down, turn it right back on," linebacker Ben Taylor said. "You're off the field, relaxing, and then boom, you're right back on the field.

"You're always frustrated whenever you see your own team not do well, but that's the time for the defense to step up and make a play."

The Packers responded well to the one critical sudden change in the season opener against the Bears. After a fumble on a kickoff that gave the Bears the ball on the Green Bay 16, the Packers stopped a short pass for a 4-yard loss on first down. Two plays later, all the Bears could salvage was a field goal, and the Packers stayed in the game.

The Saints did the same thing on one of their first-quarter turnovers, forcing the Packers to kick a field goal despite a first down in the red zone.

Oftentimes the offense sees a turnover as a chance to catch the defense out of sync. As Barnett noted, it comes down to the defense staying composed because the opponent might try anything to maximize on the opportunity.

"You have to get the calls and everything together," Taylor said. "That can be chaotic because the offense can come right on the field and they're already lined up at the line of scrimmage to jump right on you. Then they'll usually try to take a shot at you and beat you on that next play."

The Packers play away from home this week for the first time in the regular season, and it can be even tougher to quelch an opponent's surge on the road. But getting the ball right back after a turnover, or holding an offense on a short field to three points rather than surrendering seven, can swing the momentum back the other way.

"We've had some situations this year where we've come out and put the fire out, so to speak, but we didn't get it done (Sunday)," defensive coordinator Bob Sanders said. "That's something we talked about in the meeting and we're real concerned about.

"The guys have to be ready to come out and make a statement in those times. Those are turnaround times."

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