In win streak, don’t for­get Saints’ re­cent turnovers

The Sun Herald (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY ROD WALKER

As At­lanta Fal­cons quar­ter­back Matt Ryan walked off the field af­ter a play Thurs­day night, he glanced up at the gi­ant Mercedes-Benz Su­per­dome video board to watch a re­play.

Mo­ments later, the tele­vi­sion cam­eras caught Ryan mouthing the words, “Where did he come from?”

Ryan was re­fer­ring to New Or­leans Saints safety Mar­cus Wil­liams, who darted through the Fal­cons of­fen­sive line and swat­ted the ball out of his hand to force the first of four turnovers in the Saints’ 31-17 vic­tory.

Saints op­po­nents are per­haps ask­ing that where-did-he-come­from ques­tion a lot lately. If it seems that mem­bers of the Saints’ de­fense are sprint­ing to­ward the end zone for their cel­e­bra­tory team photo more of­ten lately, it’s be­cause they are.

A team that strug­gled tak­ing away the ball at the be­gin­ning of the sea­son is now do­ing it a rapid pace.

“As long as you give ef­fort in this game and you run to the foot­ball, good things gen­er­ally tend to hap­pen,” line­backer A.J. Klein said. “I think as long as we keep play­ing with great ef­fort and con­tinue to be op­por­tunis­tic, I think we’ll be just fine and we’ll con­tinue to force turnovers.”

Klein got an in­ter­cep­tion Thurs­day night on a pass that was de­flected by Tyeler Dav­i­son. It was the fifth con­sec­u­tive game the Saints have recorded at least one in­ter­cep­tion. The Saints also forced three fum­bles Thurs­day night for a sea­son­high four turnovers. For the sea­son, they have 10 in­ter­cep­tions and seven fum­ble re­cov­er­ies.

Not bad for a team that wasn’t cre­at­ing those types of op­por­tu­ni­ties early on.

The Saints had just one turnover, a Mar­cus Wil­liams in­ter­cep­tion, in Week 2 against Cleve­land, through their first three games.

Now they have forced seven in a five-day span af­ter three in­ter­cep­tions Sun­day against the Phil­a­del­phia Ea­gles and four Thurs­day.

“It’s some­thing you have to

work on, preach, coach, prac­tice,” Saints coach Sean Pay­ton said. “Some teams do a bet­ter job than oth­ers. I think it’s no co­in­ci­dence. You don’t just get lucky breaks. ‘Peanut’ (for­mer Bears corner­back Charles Till­man) taught this league that for years. It’s tech­nique; it’s work. It’s some­thing that you work on, and if you don’t work on it, you don’t get as many, and if you do, you get more.”

A team that was to­ward the bot­tom of the NFL rank­ings in turnover dif­fer­en­tial to start the year now finds it­self near the top. Drew Brees, who has thrown just two in­ter­cep­tions in 11 games, has a lot to do with that. The Saints are now a plus-8 in turnovers (17 take­aways, nine give­aways). That ranks fifth in the league.

The Saints have caused seven fum­bles al­ready this sea­son. That’s a vast im­prove­ment from last sea­son when they caused just five, which tied with the Vik­ings and Tex­ans for next-to-last in the NFL.

“It just goes along with the rest of our goals,” line­backer De­mario Davis said. “If we can get those, then it changes the tone of the game.”

Es­pe­cially, as was the case Thurs­day night, when those turnovers come af­ter the op­po­nent has reached the red zone. All three of the Fal­cons’ fum­bles came in the red zone.

“Those are sig­nif­i­cant,” Pay­ton said. “Those — do­ing the math, if you come up with a stop in the red zone, they kick a field goal, it’s a four-point swing. If you take the ball away, it’s a seven, or at worst a three-point swing.”

Over the last eight games, the Saints have forced at least one turnover in ev­ery game ex­cept one (Bal­ti­more). They have cre­ated at least two turnovers in five of the past eight games. And at least three turnovers in the past two.

Even more im­pres­sive, the turnovers have come from all over the de­fense. In all, 11 play­ers have been cred­ited with an in­ter­cep­tion, a forced fum­ble or a fum­ble re­cov­ery.

“You can’t say enough about the ef­fort we’re play­ing with,” Klein said. “I think this is go­ing to pay div­i­dends as we push forth into this late part of the sea­son.”

BILL FEIG AP

New Or­leans corner­back Eli Ap­ple re­cov­ers a fum­ble at the goal line against the At­lanta Fal­cons on Thurs­day in New Or­leans.

BUTCH DILL AP

New Or­leans de­fen­sive tackle Shel­don Rank­ins tries to sack At­lanta Fal­cons quar­ter­back Matt Ryan on Thurs­day.

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