In win streak, don’t forget Saints’ recent turnovers
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.”
New Orleans cornerback Eli Apple recovers a fumble at the goal line against the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday in New Orleans.
New Orleans defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins tries to sack Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan on Thursday.