'Takeaway party' has fueled Packers' defensive surge

Green Bay has generated 12 turnovers during four-game win streak

S Adrian Amos, CB Jaire Alexander & S Darnell Savage

GREEN BAY – At first, Rasul Douglas didn't break character.

Surrounded by media at his locker Thursday, the Packers' cornerback was asked about what has flipped for Green Bay's defense during the team's recent four-game winning streak.

"We're getting turnovers," said Douglas with a straight face before flashing a smile and going into a more detailed response.

As simple as Douglas' original three-word answer was, there's a lot of truth in that reply. There has been a tangible difference in the turnover department, as the defense has generated as many takeaways (12) in the team's last four games as did during the first 12 contests combined.

Best of all, every level of the Packers' defense has contributed to that surge. Seven different players are responsible for the nine INTs, while defensive tackles Kenny Clark and Jarran Reed also have recoveries of fumbles that they helped force themselves.

Since their winning streak began in Chicago last month, the Packers have fashioned a plus-9 turnover differential over that time that leads the entire NFL. While there are some chicken-and-egg elements to the defensive uptick, including the Packers leading more in games than they did earlier this season, there is no debating the fact the defense is playing with more swagger.

"It's not only one guy or one room. Everyone's getting involved in the takeaway party," defensive coordinator Joe Barry said. "It's something that we focus on and talk about every single day. We talk about tackling and taking the ball away. Our players see that, they hear that, we rep that every single day and I take my hat off to our guys because they kept believing in it."

Dating back to Week 7 in Washington, the Packers have posted at least one takeaway in 10 consecutive games, tied for the longest single-season streak by Green Bay since 2015.

Coincidentally, it was De'Vondre Campbell's interception return for a touchdown against the Commanders that gave Green Bay its first points off a takeaway this season. Since then, the Packers have generated 79 total points off turnovers, fifth most in the NFL this season and second most over the past 10 games (Dallas, 101).

Green Bay recorded four takeaways in each of its last two victories, a 26-20 comeback over Miami and a 41-17 rout of Minnesota this past Sunday at Lambeau Field. It's the first time the Packers had consecutive games with four-plus takeaways since Weeks 14-15 of the 2016 season, which is also the last time Green Bay registered three-plus INTs in consecutive games.

"It's just all about timing, opportunity," said safety Darnell Savage, who had a 75-yard INT return for a touchdown against the Vikings. "When it happens, it happens. They say they come in bunches, so you've just got to capitalize on it. I think we're just going out there, playing hard, trusting each other. A lot of stuff's falling our way."

Sunday's matchup between the Packers and Lions is an interesting paradox. While the Packers have been proficient at taking the ball away during their win streak, the Lions (8-8) have been equally exceptional at protecting the football since a 1-6 start to start the year.

In fact, quarterback Jared Goff has not thrown an INT since Jaire Alexander picked him off in Week 9 at Ford Field. Goff's 290 consecutive passes without an interception are a Lions franchise record and currently the longest active streak in the NFL.

Goff has a fashioned a 108.4 passer rating over Detroit's last eight games, completing 186 of 278 passes (66.9%) for 2,173 yards and 15 touchdowns. He does have one lost fumble over that stretch. It came two weeks ago in a 37-23 loss to the Carolina Panthers.

Barry and Head Coach Matt LaFleur both know Goff well from their time with the Los Angeles Rams. LaFleur was Goff's offensive coordinator in 2017, while Barry coached on the Rams' staff from 2017-20. The two coaches agree Goff is playing perhaps the best football of his seven NFL seasons.

"I've seen Jared play at an elite, elite level and he's playing very good right now," Barry said. "They're not turning the ball over, which I think is a sign of any really good offense and quarterback. … I think they only have three turnovers total in the last eight games, so I think those are all things that go into (it). You can see that a quarterback's playing well when you have statistics like that."

Alexander and Douglas are peaking at their position, too, with both cornerbacks ranking inside the top 10 in NFL interceptions. Alexander is tied for fifth with a career-high five INTs, while all four of Douglas' interceptions have come in the fourth quarter this season.

The Packers' faith in the two veterans could be seen in last week's game against Minnesota. In the week leading up to the matchup, Barry and cornerbacks coach Jerry Gray sought the input of Alexander and Douglas on how to defend All-Pro receiver Justin Jefferson.

Collectively, the Packers chose to have Alexander match Jefferson, who finished with just one catch for 15 yards. Douglas, meanwhile, had two physical pass deflections, including one in the first quarter that led to Savage's touchdown.

Now, the Packers are one week away from bouncing back from a 4-8 start to make a fourth consecutive playoff appearance under LaFleur. To get to the postseason, however, they'll have to find the right formula to crack Detroit's offensive code.

"We've been in (playoff) mode for the last four weeks," Douglas said. "So, for us, just got to win."

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