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John DeShazier: Saints are on winning side of turnover margin

Posted Oct 28, 2013

No stat is more important

The New Orleans Saints do little in the form of giving, much when it comes to taking.

That recipe doesn’t play for the holiday season but it’s effective on a football field. So there’s little wonder that New Orleans is 6-1 entering Sunday’s game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

The Saints are plus-8 this season in takeaway margin (15 takeaways, seven turnovers), second-most in the NFC and third-most in the NFL. Of the league’s top 10 teams in turnover ratio, only one, Tennessee, has a losing record (the Titans, 3-4, are at plus-6).

The others range from Carolina and Chicago (with 4-3 records, and plus-6 and plus-7 margins, respectively) to Kansas City (8-0, and a league-leading plus-12).

The Saints, who have nine interceptions and six fumble recoveries, forced three turnovers Sunday against Buffalo in a 35-17 victory at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. And it was New Orleans’ second turnover-free game this season.

The Saints have won both games in which they haven’t turned over the ball.

“We try to make an emphasis in regards to the turnovers daily,” Coach Sean Payton said. “There are times, when you’re not in full pads, that it’s more difficult. It’s still technique. There’s still an effort element.

“There’s still a want-to element to create and then there’s the technique of trying to do that, protecting the football. Those are things that we, like every other team in the league, understand are important.

“And I felt like (Sunday) that allowed us to overcome some of the other things that weren’t as good. Getting three (turnovers) on defense, and then not turning it over on offense or in the kicking game, I thought that was pretty significant in the game.”

The Saints converted the three turnovers into a couple of touchdowns and lamented that it wasn’t more; the first turnover, a forced and recovered fumble at Buffalo’s 22-yard line on the first play from scrimmage, yielded no points as the Saints lost seven yards on three plays, then missed a field goal.

But the takeaways provided the impetus for the New Orleans’ first and last touchdowns. And they reinforced how crucial they can be.

Through the first seven games last season, when the Saints were 2-5, they were even in turnover margin, nine takeaways and nine turnovers. The fact that they’ve increased the former and decreased the latter, in no small part, has increased the overall success rate.

Saints-Bills“Turnovers are huge in our game,” linebacker Curtis Lofton said. “Usually, if you get a turnover, the likelihood of you winning the game goes up tremendously. So we focus on it in practice, in film.

“We watch film, see if a quarterback is carrying the ball loose, (if) a running back is not switching arms (and) carrying the ball loose. We’re going to try to force that. And also, just by adding pressure on a quarterback and getting interceptions.

“I think we’re pretty pleased but I feel like we leave a lot out there. But we’ve got to continue to get better. We’ve taken a couple of steps in the right direction and we’ve just got to keep growing.”

It’s a recipe that works for them.

Granted, there’s no guarantee that it’s necessary for success. The Broncos (7-1) and Bengals (6-2) are at minus-1, the Packers (5-2) are at minus-2, the Chargers (4-3) are at minus-6 and the Jets (4-4), Sunday’s opponent, are at minus-12.

But the other 13 teams in the negative have losing records. Meanwhile, of the 14 teams on the plus side, only three have losing records.

Count the Saints on the winning side of the plus side, as the defense continues to swarm and ball hawk.

“(Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan) always tells us that the only way to get the turnovers is to get population to the ball,” said linebacker Junior Galette, who has two fumble recoveries. “So you’ve got to have everybody, as a unit, just running to the ball.

“Even if you’re 20 yards away from it, you just never know, just get there. We feel like the more bodies around the ball, it increases the chances of the ball coming out and you picking it up.”

Picking up footballs and victories by taking far more than they give.