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Packers know their defense is good. So for playoff success, all eyes are on the offense

GREEN BAY -- Considering his background on the offensive side of the ball, it was interesting to hear Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy admit earlier this week that he's a firm believer in the notion that defense wins championships.

GREEN BAY -- Considering his background on the offensive side of the ball, it was interesting to hear Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy admit earlier this week that he's a firm believer in the notion that defense wins championships.

Perhaps McCarthy has just come to the conclusion that the Jekyll-and-Hyde offense for which he calls the plays can't be counted on to lead the Packers anywhere in the postseason.

"I've always looked at defense as the thermostat," McCarthy said. "When you have great defense, they keep you in games, week in and week out, and it's the responsibility of the offense to score more points than the opponent."

Green Bay's defense has held up its end of the bargain this season by holding six opponents to single digits en route to finishing the regular season ranked second in the NFL in fewest points allowed.

The offense's up-and-down season can be summed up with its last two performances. On Dec. 26, Aaron Rodgers and Co. produced a season-high 515 total yards of offense and matched a season high in points during a 45-17 victory over the New York Giants. A week later, the Packers were held to 284 yards during a 10-3 victory over the Chicago Bears.

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For the first time since 1946, the Packers have won two games in a season while scoring 10 or fewer points. It's an interesting statistic, unless you're on the offensive side of the ball.

"I think the thing you realize is that when you're playing in the playoffs, it's the best of the best and we can't expect (our defense) to hold every team to three points," Rodgers said as the Packers (10-6) prepare for an NFC first-round playoff game Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles (10-6) at Lincoln Financial Field.

"We're playing against a guy who's had an MVP-type season in (Eagles quarterback) Michael Vick. They've got a lot of weapons, good special teams, very solid defense, so we know we need to carry our burden a little bit better next week and hopefully put some points on the board to take off some of the pressure from our defense."

Barring a collapse by the defense, the blueprint for postseason success is pretty simple for the Packers: As long as the offense doesn't get sloppy with the football, Green Bay can beat any team in the NFC field.

The Packers, who finished the season No. 4 in the NFL in turnover margin at plus-10, were plus-16 in their 10 victories and minus-6 in their six losses.

Green Bay is 7-0 when it wins the turnover battle, 1-1 when it's even and 2-5 when it loses it.

The Eagles are fifth in the NFL in takeaways with 34, just ahead of the Packers (32).

"It takes on significance every time you take the field, and this is the most important time of year, so it's obviously more significant," McCarthy said of turnovers. "Big plays and turnovers would fall into that category. Playoff football really comes down to cashing in on big-play opportunities, and that will definitely be something that we'll focus on this week."

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The Packers committed costly turnovers in each of their five road losses this season:

l Late in a 20-17 loss at Chicago in Week 3, wide receiver James Jones lost a fumble at the Green Bay 46-yard line. The Bears converted the turnover into Robbie Gould's game-winning 19-yard field goal with 4 seconds remaining.

l On Green Bay's second possession of overtime during a 16-13 loss at Washington in Week 5, Rodgers was picked off by LaRon Landry at the Green Bay 39. Like the Bears, the Redskins capitalized on the opportunity by getting in position for Graham Gano's game-winning 33-yard field goal.

l During the second quarter of a 20-17 loss at Atlanta in Week 12, Rodgers fumbled on a quarterback sneak from the Falcons 1. Atlanta recovered in the end zone and marched 80 plays in 14 plays for a touchdown for a 10-3 lead.

l During the first quarter of a 7-3 loss at Detroit in Week 14, a pass from Rodgers to wide receiver Greg Jennings that could have been a 73-yard touchdown instead bounced off Jennings and into the hands of Detroit's Amari Spievey.

l On Green Bay's opening possession of the second half during a 31-27 loss at New England the following week, Jones cut off a slant route and Matt Flynn's pass was intercepted by Kyle Arrington, who returned it 36 yards for a touchdown that gave the Patriots a 21-17 lead.

"If we want to make a run in the playoffs," Rodgers said, "I'm going to have to play efficient, not turn the ball over and get us in good situations."

If not, the defense will have a heavy load to carry in the postseason.

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"The defense is playing extremely well and they've given us the opportunity in a lot of games," Packers left guard Daryn Colledge said. "I think you bring a defense like that into the playoffs, you're excited, because you know you're going to have an opportunity to win some games. They're going to keep you in them all.

"So we've got to step up and play as well as they are. They deserve a ton of credit for the way they've been playing and they deserve us playing well also."

Related Topics: FOOTBALL
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