METAIRIE, La. – Coaches and players say all the time that turnovers are the biggest difference between winning and losing in the NFL. Based on what we’ve seen so far this season, that should give the New Orleans Saints a decisive edge over the New York Jets on Sunday.
The Saints (6-1) rank fourth in the NFL with a turnover ratio of plus-8. The Jets (4-4) are tied for last at minus-12.
The Saints should be able to take advantage of that disparity on defense. Their pass rush has been imposing this season and their secondary opportunistic – a dangerous combination for Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith, whose 13 interception are the third-most in the league. The Saints, as usual, will aim to take an early lead and force Smith to try and play catch-up.
However, Saints coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees insist that they aren’t reading too much into the fact that the Jets' defense has forced only five takeaways. New York has one of the most disruptive defensive fronts in the league, and is tied for fifth in the NFL with 25 sacks.
“This team defensively has a ton of fumbles. They just haven’t been able to recover some,” Payton said, calling that “unusual.” “Those guys rushing the passer all have a knack for getting their off-hand on the quarterback’s throwing arm and separating the ball from the quarterback. That is something that they are very good at.”
The Saints have turned the ball over only seven times in seven games. That’s tied for the second-lowest total in the league. Brees has thrown just five interceptions, which puts him on pace for 11 and to equal his lowest total with the Saints.
Again, it helps that Brees has had the luxury of playing with more leads. Last season, for example, he had eight interceptions through seven games and finished with 19.
“Every year’s different,” Brees said, breaking down his usual philosophy on interceptions. “There’s three types of interceptions: bad throws, bad decisions and bad luck. I think typically there’s a combination of those three every year, and usually they’re kind of even amongst the three. I’d say the years in which they’re a bit lower than normal, is maybe you’ve had a little better luck. You didn’t have the tipped ball at the line of scrimmage or the tipped ball down the field off of one of your guys or the two or three Hail Marys that you threw that they ended up coming down with.
“For me, it’s about being as efficient as I can be and the best decision-maker that I can be. And there are going to be those games where for whatever reason you toss a few. You have to be able to just kind of get it out of your head, learn from it, stay aggressive and confident and know that you’re going to have a chance to win the game at the end and be ready for that.”