Proof is in: Cardinals need to force turnovers to win

TEMPE, Ariz. -- It's become nearly cut and dry.

When the Arizona Cardinals don't force turnovers, chances are that they'll lose.

Want proof? In their two losses this season, the Cardinals didn't take the ball away from the opposing offense. In their four wins, however, they've forced 13 turnovers, fourth most in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

"When you go three turnovers and no takeaways, you lose about 80 to 88 percent of the time," said Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, referring to his team's three turnovers against the Pittsburgh Steelers. "It's just the history of the game."

It's a trend that goes beyond this season, however.

In seven of their 13 losses under Arians, the Cardinals didn't force a turnover. In their six other losses, the Cards did not force more than two.

In 25 wins under Arians, the Cardinals' turnover margin is plus-29. In losses, it's minus-19.

As with anything in football, there's always an exception.

The Cardinals have won two games under Arians -- against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 3 and at the Oakland Raiders in Week 7 last season -- in which they didn't force any turnovers. But odds aren't usually in their favor.

"When we get turnovers, those are definite wins," defensive tackle Calais Campbell said. "That's how the game goes. You get turnovers, you get short fields or you get in the end zone yourself, which our DBs are known to do."

The Cardinals lead the NFL with 11 interceptions this season, of which a league-high three were returned for touchdowns. The Cardinals' 12 defensive touchdowns since 2013 lead the NFL, however. They've also forced seven fumbles this year and recovered just two, an area that Campbell wants to see improvement.

One of the most important byproducts of turnovers, however, has been better field position.

Since 2013, when the Cardinals have started drives off interceptions, their average starting field position was at their opponents' 47.6-yard-line. When they recover fumbles, their average starting field position has been at their opponents 39.7.

The Cardinals have turned drives started by interceptions into nine touchdowns since 2013, included four this season, and have scored just four touchdowns on drives sparked by a fumble recovery.

By comparison, the Cardinals' average offensive starting field position since 2013 was their 28.2-yard-line. In wins, it's been their 30.6 and in losses, their 23.7.

"It's more a big spark, it's better field position, but at the same time it gets the defense hyped up and all types of stuff," safety Tony Jefferson said. "It all factors in and we got to get turnovers. We can't be a defense that doesn't get turnovers. Even if our offense does give some turnovers, we go to do our part and get some."