Turnovers a focus in Texans-Seahawks

Last Sunday in Baltimore, Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing was miked up, and overheard telling his defensive teammates they needed to get a turnover.

That theme carried into the postgame, when several of the Texans defensive starters talked about how much that was stressed during the week.

"The only way to change that, especially from a defensive standpoint, is just trying to make the most of your opportunities," linebacker Joe Mays said. "When it comes to sacks, try to strip out the ball. Whenever a running back is running, try to strip out the ball. Just try to be at the right place at the right time as far as reading the quarterback, knowing where he's going. That just takes a week of preparation. Knowing who's the favorite receivers and just trying to be in the right position at the right time."

The Texans, who have given up the second-fewest yards in the league so far, have only forced one turnover this season -- the interception Cushing returned for a touchdown against the San Diego Chargers. Their turnover differential is minus-3, among the NFL's worst. Meanwhile, the Seattle Seahawks, who visit the Texans this Sunday, have the best turnover margin in the NFC (plus-6). They are second overall to the Kansas City Chiefs (plus-9).

"Being ahead really helps," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "I like to think that it is the No. 1 thing we emphasize in our program. It’s the first thing that we talk about every year, every camp, about getting the football and taking care of it. I’m trying to emphasize it better than every coach that’s ever coached. For years at (USC), when we really had the big run, our numbers were phenomenal year after year after year in getting the football. It’s a winning formula in itself. We do it because it’s the single-most-important factor to winning for us. Our numbers have kind of proven that out."

Turnovers are momentum-changers, and might well have helped the Texans on Sunday against the Ravens, when their offense struggled and special teams allowed a touchdown.

"That's where we pick up the slack," Mays said. "We've been playing good football, but we have to get better. We pick up the slack whenever offense may not be playing well or special teams may not be playing well -- that's where we step in and play better. I think we have the guys in the locker room that feel that way. We just have to keep on working, but we're going to get better."

Of course, the other key factor in turnover margin matters, too. That would be the offensive half -- where the Texans have four turnovers, all interceptions.