For the last couple of years, the New Orleans Saints have ended on the wrong side of .500. Many things have been blamed for the poor play on the field, but one of the most important areas has to be the turnover battle.
Ever since the Sean Payton era started in New Orleans, his teams have almost always been able to fight against a negative turnover ratio. In 2009, the Saints had their first year with a positive ratio and what a year it turned out to be.
The Saints managed to take the ball away from the opponent 11 more times than they gave it away that season.
That year came after several positive seasons, but still seasons where the Saints failed to make the playoff two out of three years. The only playoff run was in the famous 2006 season, where Brees took the team all the way to the NFC Championship.
Now seven years later, the Saints have only had a positive turnover ratio two times, most recently in 2015. Unfortunately that didn’t lead to a winning season. So maybe the times of winning despite a negative ratio are over.
The Saints can only stay in the game for so long and give the ball away so many times before the game is lost.
The first preseason game against the New England Patriots is a perfect example. The Patriots led 24-22 and the Saints were already down 3-0 in turnovers at that point–a pick six thrown by Garrett Grayson, Mark Ingram‘s fumble and Luke McCown‘s interception in the end zone.
Still the team was in position to go in front with a score. McCown then fumbled on third down and Trey Flowers took it all the way for the touchdown. It was the play that finally ended the game, a game the Saints could have won if they hadn’t been so careless with the football.
The Saints will have their chances to win games this year, but they can only close the deal if the offense plays disciplined and doesn’t turn the ball over.
Furthermore the defense has to create pressure on the opponent, so it can prevent scores or give the offense the ball in good field position.
In the Patriots game, the defense put themselves in good positions to make plays, but they couldn’t come through. Vonn Bell dropped a sure pick six and Erik Harris had a couple of opportunities to intercept the ball.
As we get closer to the regular season, those plays have to be made for the team to be successful in 2016.
It’s still early in the preseason, but the turnover battle will be one to watch each week until the start of season. Hopefully by then the offense, will take better care of the ball and the defense will make sure to give it back to the offense.