Monday, November 30, 2020

Turnovers a Constant in NFL's Oldest Rivalry

 By Eric Goska

Darnell Savage Jr. (left) grabs the first of
two interceptions against the Bears Sunday night.
(screenshot from NFL Game Pass)

Ninety-nine years after the Packers and Bears first met, turnovers continue to impact the most storied rivalry in football.

Green Bay never trailed in toppling the Bears 41-25 Sunday night. More than half of the winner’s points were set up by turnovers.

Almost 100 years have passed since these two teams first clashed. Chicago, then the Staleys, trounced the Packers 20-0 on Nov. 27, 1921.

In that contest and in every regular-season game since, at least one turnover has reared its ugly head.

The latest encounter followed suit. Green Bay swiped the ball three times at Lambeau Field resulting in 21 points.

Darnell Savage Jr. was the first to pounce. In the second quarter, the safety grabbed a pass in the end zone targeted for Chicago’s Darnell Mooney.

Thirteen plays later, Aaron Rodgers hit Allen Lazard with a 2-yard scoring pass, and the Packers went up 20-3.

Za’Darius Smith then crashed the party. On third-and-17, the linebacker jarred the ball free from Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky. Preston Smith scooped it up and trucked 14 yards to pay dirt as Green Bay extended its lead, 27-3.

Savage Jr. finished the job in the third quarter.  The second-year defender waylaid a pass intended for Anthony Miller near midfield and, four plays later, Rodgers connected with tight end Robert Tonyan to give the Green and Gold a 34-10 advantage.

Savage Jr. joined Cully Lidberg (in 1929), Bobby Dillon (1955) and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (2016) as the only Packers to set up two touchdowns with interceptions in a game against the Bears.

Only four other times in this series has Green Bay garnered 21 or more points as a result of turnovers. The record is 24 in a 38-7 victory in 1962.

Losing the ball in this rivalry has sometimes been more common than scoring points. On Nov. 23, 1924, the two clubs combined for a record 14 turnovers in the Bears’ 3-0 win. On Sept. 27, 1931, the ball changed hands 13 times with Green Bay prevailing 7-0.

In all, 1,052 turnovers have been registered in 199 regular-season meetings. Chicago has committed 562 and Green Bay 490.

The Packers’ record in games in which it has fewer turnovers than the Bears is 75-24-2 (.752). The Bears’ record in games in which it has fewer turnovers than the Packers is 50-13-3 (.780).

Of course, refusing to give the ball to one’s enemy is always best. Chicago is 7-3 (.700) under those circumstances. Green Bay is 24-3 (.889).

Rodgers is 9-0 as a starter against the Bears when the Packers are turnover-free. Green Bay has not committed a turnover in each of its last three games with Chicago.

Turnovers were part of the first meeting between the
Packers and Bears (then the Staleys) in 1921.

Almost a century ago, Jake Lanum became the first Bear to intercept a pass in the series. Later in the same quarter, Art Schmael did so for the Packers.

Those two kicked off a tradition of theft that is as old as the rivalry itself. Expect more of the same when these two teams tee it up to close out the 2020 season on Jan. 3.

It’s a Setup

Most points scored by the Packers as the result of turnovers in a regular-season game against the Bears.

          Points         Date                              Result

              24              Nov. 4, 1962               GB won, 38-7

              21              Sept. 30, 1962            GB won, 49-0

              21              Nov. 9, 2014               GB won, 55-14

              21              Sept. 28, 2017            GB won, 35-14

              21              Nov. 29, 2020            GB won, 41-25

              19              Dec. 8, 1929               GB won, 25-0

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