Chargers preach turnovers as vital

How do you get to the playoffs? Is there a magic formula? Around NFL circles, the answer is a decisive yes. And Chargers head coach Marty Schottenheimer has the recipe tucked neatly away in his cupboard.

Everyone has heard Marty Schottenheimer preach the importance of winning the turnover battle. A major reason is the success it breeds.

After losing the illustrious battle last week by a 2-1 margin, the Chargers head to Denver where they have been awful at holding onto the ball.

Quarterback Drew Brees got the favor of Schottenheimer by being smart about his decisions a year ago. He did not force the play and even a few of his seven interceptions were the result of luck – off a helmet here, off a hand there.

"He does the things necessary to win games," the head coach opined.

His one game total of two interceptions certainly isn't what is necessary and in a hostile environment such as Denver it could push the Chargers into the loss column for the second straight week.

"A divisional game, always tough," Brees said of the matchup this week. "On the road in Denver, always tough. The fact that we both came off losses - both of us are looking at the game as we have to win."

Starting the season at 0-2 with an emotional game on Sunday night against the Giants next week isn't the way the Chargers want to begin the year – and limiting and creating turnovers is a fundamental way to ensure they are victorious.

"You can't overstate it," says Tom Coughlin, head coach of the New York Giants. "Turnovers are probably the most critical statistic in winning and losing. It's been proven."

He's right and so is Schottenheimer for being so stern in his mantra.

The six clubs in 2004 with the top turnover ratio posted a 65-31 (.677) record with four of those teams advancing to the playoffs.

Although the Carolina Panthers did not make the playoffs in 2004, their success at the end of the season can be attributed to the creation of turnovers. Eight games into the season the Panthers only forced nine turnovers in their 1-7 start. But they finished the season 7-9, going 6-2 in their last eight games. During that period, the Panthers forced 29 turnovers to end the season with a league-leading 38 takeaways.

Teams with the best turnover margins in 2004 and how they finished:

TEAM RECORD TURNOVER RATIO 2004 FINISH
Indianapolis 12-4 +19 Reached AFC Divisional Round
New York Jets 10-6 +17 Reached AFC Divisional Round
San Diego 12-4 +15 Reached AFC Wild Card
Carolina 7-9 +12 Did not make playoffs
Baltimore 9-7 +11 Did not make playoffs
Pittsburgh 15-1 +11 Reached AFC Championship

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