METAIRIE, La. — Malcolm Jenkins remembers back to earlier in his career and how much of an emphasis takeaways were for then defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
But while now-defensive coordinator Rob Ryan talks about and has a turnover board on the wall in the defensive meeting room, it’s not nearly the same.
“When we used to emphasize it all the time, we used to eat, sleep and breathe turnovers,” Jenkins said. “That was when Gregg (Williams) was here. You look at the defense now and really the only guys that were here from Gregg Williams’ time is me and Roman (Harper) and everybody else is new.
“We can’t assume everybody knows the importance of it and everybody has it.”
If they didn’t know turnovers were important before, they certainly do now heading into Sunday’s pivotal noon NFC showdown at Carolina.
Often coach Sean Payton says the turnover stat is the biggest determiner of wins and losses in the NFL. This season is bearing that out for the Saints.
When New Orleans started the year 6-1 and had built a small lead in the division, they were taking care of the ball (seven giveaways) and stealing it from their opponents (15 takeaways).
As the season has unfolded since Week 8, however, everything has changed. The Saints are now even for the season, turning the ball over 10 times in the past seven weeks while only forcing two turnovers.
After intercepting the ball nine times in the first seven games, New Orleans has intercepted a pass just once since. After forcing 12 fumbles in the opening seven games, the team has forced only three since.
In fact, since Week 8, when the Saints were fourth in the NFL in turnover differential, 31 teams have more takeaways, including 17 with double-digit turns.
“There’s something wrong with that and we’ve got to get that fixed,” Saints linebacker Curtis Lofton said. “We’ve got to give more possessions to our offense.”
The offense doesn’t get a pass, either.
New Orleans has three more turnovers in the past seven games than in the first seven. It has fumbled the ball four more times than in the first half of the season and lost the loose ball three more times.
Yet, it’s the only factor drastically different from the two halves of the season. The Saints are averaging nearly the same yards and third-down conversions on offense and defense in the second half of the season as in the first seven games.
In other words, New Orleans’ advantage – Brees on the field with the offense – is taken away when it not turns the ball over, but when it doesn’t take the ball away.
“When we have an offense that we do that scores points, it’s awesome to get the ball back to them,” Lofton said.