The NFL is full of the most elite football players from all over the world with incredible athletic abilities; Odell Beckham Jr.’s three finger catch says enough. With the top athletes facing off every week, a team knows there is one thing they need to do in order to outperform their opponent; win the turnover battle every single game.
In 2013, teams that win the turnover battle have a 72-17 record; going 810-220-2 from 2008 to 2012. According to Steve Mariucci, an NFL Network analyst and former head coach, “It’s all about the number of possessions”, and he’s right. Ultimately, turnovers dictate the amount of possessions a team has and the number of scoring opportunities.
For the Chargers, winning the battle this season has landed them a 6-0 record. Even games ending in turnover ties has given them two more wins. Basically, the Chargers success thus far has been from limiting giveaways and forcing the takeaways.
Since week one against the Arizona Cardinals, the Chargers have had a total of 12 turnovers while their opponents have had 13. Currently, San Diego ranks 13th in the NFL in turnover margin per game, for a turnover differential of 1. In addition, they rank 6th in team fumbles and fumbles lost with 11 fumbles and only 3 lost. Since Mike McCoy took over the head coach position, he has reiterated how important it is to limit turnovers and force them. In the five-game win streak earlier this year, the Chargers had seven takeaways and only one giveaway. Unfortunately, that record was snapped during the three-game losing streak; turning the ball over seven times and not a single takeaway.
Since 2010, the Chargers have only had one season with a positive turnover differential. Even making it to the postseason last year, the Chargers ended with a -4 differential. It was Tom Telesco’s responsibility to add play makers to the defensive unit. Brandon Flowers was a free agent signee in the offseason and has accrued three interceptions this year so far. Before the season ending shoulder injury to rookie cornerback Jason Verrett, he had one interception and ranked 10th-best cornerback by Pro Football Focus. Even Corey Liuget has added to the equation with two forced fumbles; ranking him 23rd in the league. At this time, the Chargers rank 9th in over team defense. They will need to hold this, if not improve, in order for a potential postseason appearance.
In order for the Chargers to advance their record and earn a spot in the playoffs, the team has to win the turnover battle every single time; there’s absolutely no way around it. Back in 2012, three of the top four teams that won the battle in the AFC went onto the playoffs. Heading into the final five games of the season, the Chargers are set to face off against the league’s top teams. Of those five teams, three rank better than San Diego in team turnover differential; the New England Patriots ranking 2nd among all teams. If that isn’t intimidating enough, of the five quarterbacks the defense has to play, four rank higher than Philip Rivers in touchdown-to-interceptions ratio; 3.4 total combined against Rivers’ 2.4.
For the remainder of the season, the offense needs to limit their mistakes and the defensive needs to make game changing plays. The winner of the turnover battle will win football games every time. We all know Rivers does the unthinkable in December, he is the NFL’s third highest-rated passer in December/January (99.0) with a 71-to-22 touchdown-to-interception ratio, but will his success continue? Stay tuned Charger fans for the next five weeks.