Often, extra effort is rewarded. In one case Sunday, it wasn't.
The New Orleans Saints' first drive of the second half was exactly what was needed for a team that trailed 21-7 and needed to regain its footing – a 14-play, 75-yard drive that lasted 8:03 and resulted in a touchdown, on Drew Brees'3-yard pass to Mark Ingram. It was a grinding, meat-and-potatoes march through the Kansas City Chiefs defense.
Their third drive of the half was shaping up to be much the same; the possession began at New Orleans' 33-yard line with 12:11 left in the game and in seven plays, the Saints were first-and-10 from the Chiefs' 13-yard line.
From there, Ingram took a handoff up the middle, and has had been the case on his previous two carries on the drive, found room to run. But as he struggled to complete what would be a 6-yard grind, Chiefs free safety Ron Parkernot only initiated the tackle, but punched loose the football from Ingram. Kansas City cornerback Marcus Petersrecovered the fumble at the 7 and returned it 21 yards to the 28-yard line. And the Saints, who were looking to slice further into a 24-14 deficit, were left empty-handed.
The significance of the play was glaring: Points were taken off the board for the Saints, a fact that was magnified when they were able to drive 80 yards for a touchdown on their next possession, with Brees' 10-yard scoring pass to Brandon Colemanproviding the score and pulling New Orleans to within 24-21.
Of course, the choice of this play as the turning point easily could have been trumped by Brees' first-quarter pass that was tipped, then intercepted by strong safety Daniel Sorensonand returned 48 yards for a touchdown, to give the Chiefs a 14-7 lead. At the time, the play was a huge momentum swing in favor of Kansas City.
But the red zone fumble came when the Saints had re-established themselves offensively, and had taken away momentum from the Chiefs. Perhaps a touchdown or field goal wouldn't have vaulted New Orleans to victory, but it definitely would have continued to unsettle the already-listing Chiefs, who were having difficulty stopping New Orleans in the second half.