Protect the football and it should fix everything

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              Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018, in Detroit. The Lions won 31-23. (AP Photo/Rey Del Rio)
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Protect the football and it should fix everything.

That seems to be the viewpoint of Mike McCarthy, whose Green Bay Packers have a variety of issues that have led to a 2-2-1 start.

“The big part of that game is focusing on the things we can control,” McCarthy said Monday, one day after his team lost at Detroit, 31-23, after digging itself a 24-0 hole. “We have to take care of the football.”

The Packers turned over the ball three times Sunday. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers lost a pair of fumbles and the ball glanced off cornerback Kevin King while he was blocking on a first-quarter punt.

Green Bay didn’t force any turnovers defensively, and through five games, the Packers are minus-2 in turnover differential, having lost it eight times (six fumbles, two interceptions) while taking away the ball six times (two fumbles, four interceptions).

McCarthy said he believes turnovers contributed to his team losing the field position battle; he had the Packers at minus-300 in terms of hidden yardage.

While he admitted that veteran kicker Mason Crosby’s five misses — four field-goal attempts and one extra point — also factored into Sunday’s loss, McCarthy said the Packers’ struggles went deeper than the 13 points those misses left on the field.

“The common thread there is the turnovers, which obviously that rolls into the field position,” McCarthy said, pointing out that Green Bay outgained Detroit 521 yards to 264. “Obviously we missed some field goals and so forth. (But) the fact of the matter is, I was very pleased with how we moved the football.”

In three of their games this season, the Packers have trailed by double digits: 20-0 early in the third quarter against Chicago, 28-10 at halftime at Washington, and 24-0 at halftime Sunday.

Rodgers took much of the blame publicly after the game, acknowledging, “I’ve got to play better in the first half.”

“It’s frustrating. We’ve been kind of a one-half team: one good half and one not-so-good half,” said Rodgers, who finished the game completing 32 of 52 passes for 442 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions (108.0 passer rating). “I was a little off. I missed a couple I usually hit. We missed some opportunities there.

“(It was) definitely a disjointed game — not punting, putting up a lot of offense and not winning the game.”

The offense hasn’t been the only side of the ball that’s been disjointed.

Against Washington, for example, Green Bay gave up 323 yards in the first half, and only 63 in the second. Against the Lions, the defense allowed 160 of 264 yards and 24 of their 31 points in the first half.

“We need to put a whole full game together,” safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix said Monday. “Making more plays, finishing tackles, making this defense better. If we can critique ourselves and figure out what we can do better as individuals, I think we’ll be better as a whole.

“As DBs, the one thing we want to do is catch interceptions, and capitalize on the opportunities we get. This is a long season. We’ve got to take advantage of our opportunities when we get them, and when they come, they come in bunches. We just have to make plays when the time comes.”

The Packers also have struggled with penalties, committing 12 for 112 against Detroit. For the season, Green Bay has committed 43 penalties for 413 yards; the Packers’ opponents have been flagged only 30 times for 262 yards.

“Whether it’s a slow start, fast finish, loose in the middle, it’s all irrelevant because if you don’t take care of the football, there’s going to be other negative statistics that come off of that,” McCarthy said. “This is not a getting-close-enough type of sport. We get that. We didn’t win the game.

“It’s part of the challenge in the early season. We have to get a little more detailed. The penalties were another negative. But taking care of the football and the penalties was a huge part of our not reaching the goal we set out to accomplish.”