Chargers want to turnover a new tradition

The San Diego Chargers went from +15 in turnover ratio in 2004 to a –8 mark last season and their record reflected the monumental drop in turnovers when it went from 12-4 to 9-7.

The Denver Broncos, meanwhile, went from a -9 in turnover ratio in 2004 to a +20 mark last year – the greatest improvement in the category in the NFL in 2005. So it was no coincidence that the team also went 13-3 and advanced to the AFC Championship Game.

"We have to get more interceptions as a defensive football team," head coach Marty Schottenheimer concluded. "That is one of the big factors in winning football games. You have a chance to create positive field position. It has been a point of emphasis for us."

"Turnovers are always a determining factor in winning or losing," says Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan.

True. They are a strong determinant. In fact, of the top 10 teams in turnover ratio last year, nine advanced to the playoffs:

Cincinnati Bengals* +24 11-5
Denver Broncos* +20 13-3
Carolina Panthers* +16 11-5
Indianapolis Colts* +12 14-2
N.Y. Giants* +12 11-5
Jacksonville Jaguars * +11 12-4
Seattle Seahawks * +10 13-3
Kansas City Chiefs +8 10-6
Pittsburgh Steelers * +7 11-5
Tampa Bay Buccaneers* +7 11-5

*Advanced to playoffs

On Saturday, Antonio Cromartie notched his first interception in the fourth quarter, a few plays after he induced a fumble, which Marlon McCree brought back for a touchdown only to have the play challenged and reversed.

"I just tried to keep my eyes on the receiver the whole time," said Cromartie. "That was one of my main things. In college you can maybe take your eyes off the receiver for one second but you can‚t do that in the NFL. When I looked up the ball was there and I came up with the interception. I just try to make plays."

The defense registered five sacks and Shaun Phillips had a forced fumble that the offense retained.

Winning the turnover battle has become a clear point of contention for the Chargers.

Sacks will come with the talent they have in the front seven and that should create forced fumbles but the cornerbacks will have to get more than the three they had all of last year.

The Chargers, incidentally, have been putting cornerback Quentin Jammer on the punt return team to help out his hands, an area that has plagued him in the past when sure interceptions fall to the turf.

"I am out here everyday with the punt returners to work on my hand-to-eye coordination," Jammer admitted.

The Chargers only hope the work he put in fielding punts will aid him, especially after committing five years to Jammer. But, he isn't alone. Everyone must step up their game and make plays – and based on the first preseason game, Cromartie could find a lot of time on the field.

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