Turnovers Again Seal Packers' Fate

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Green Bay GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman said it time and time again throughout this season, and it's been one of his constant principles throughout his five seasons at the helm of the Green Bay Packers - you can't afford to lose the turnover battle and expect to win consistently in the National Football League.

That belief was proven true once again Sunday, as the Packers turned the ball over four times while not forcing a single one from the Minnesota Vikings as the home team's season came crashing to a halt with a 31-17 defeat in the NFC Wild Card Playoff game.

Oddly enough, the Packers had bucked the conventional thinking over the course of the 2004 season, overcoming a minus-14 turnover ratio - 27th out of 32 NFL teams - to win 10 games and their third straight NFC North Division title.

But Sherman knew that they would have to take better care of the ball if they were going to make hay in the postseason tournament.

In a bit of a prophetic moment at a press conference last Monday, the coach was asked if the Pack could expect to last long in the playoffs without making a turnaround in the turnover department.

"I don't think so," Sherman replied. "I don't think you can turn the ball over and expect to win at any time. I count my blessings every time we win a game where we are minus in the turnover ratio.

"I've said it many, many times - you can play bad football and win the game if you don't turn the ball over. You don't have to be great if you don't turn the ball over. I've always felt that. And you can play great football and turn the ball over and lose. So we have to be able to hang on to the football."

But hanging on to the football is the one thing the Green Bay offense was unable to do on this hazy January evening.

Brett Favre threw four interceptions - two each before and after halftime - and the Packers were unable to overcome the hole they dug by handing the ball over to the Vikings.

The quarterback said after the game that he knew what a key role his offense would have to play in advancing in the playoffs, and that his turnovers Sunday were one of the main causes that the Packers will be spectators for the remainder of the postseason.

"We are kind of the ace in the hole for this team, offensively," said Favre. "We have a veteran group. We are explosive, and when we're not, it's usually a result of our mistakes. We put our team in a tremendous bind - one that we usually can't bail ourselves out of. That's a lot of pressure offensively, but it is what it is."

Right tackle Mark Tauscher stated just how important a factor turnovers play in determining who wins and who goes home.

"When you don't execute, you turn the ball over," the lineman said. "Turnovers are the name of the game. When you can't get turnovers and you turn the ball over as much as we did, it's a recipe for what happened today."

The Packers' loss continued a trend that hounded them throughout the season. Sunday was the team's seventh loss of the campaign and in six of those defeats, the Green and Gold was behind in the turnover battle, contributing to them being behind on the scoreboard.

Sherman summed up just what it was that caused his team's year to come to an abrupt halt Sunday in just a few short sentences.

"We didn't play very well today. We made too many mistakes to win the ballgame."

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