(ALLEN PARK) - While running the ball and stopping the run are important keys to winning football games, turnovers are the wild card.
A team can play average football, but if it is able to win the turnover battle, chances are they'll be in the game at the end. If a team wins the turnover battle decisively, then it really tilts the ballgame in their team's favor.
So says Houston Texans head coach Dom Capers.
"For as long as I've been in this business, if you turn the ball over four times in a game and you don't get any takeaways, you just aren't going to win," stated Capers.
"It is the first time since we've been here that we've been minus-four on the takeaway-giveaway." The Texans turned the ball over four times in their loss to the San Diego Chargers at home last Sunday.
Conversely, the Lions did just the opposite, getting four turnovers against the Chicago Bears while committing just one themselves in a 20-16 win over the Bears, snapping the team's three year road losing streak.
"That's one of the things the Lions did a nice job of against the Bears," continued Capers. "They got the four takeaways and the blocked field goal for a touchdown. It really doesn't make much difference what else you do in the game. If you do that, you are going to win if you are on the right side of it and you're going to lose if you're on the wrong side of it."
Mariucci agreed, citing the Lions turnovers as the main reason they came out of Chicago with a win. "That's an indicator often times of a win or a loss. It's hard to win a game when you turn the ball over four times. We've been there before; it's the breaks of the game. Hanging onto the ball and the interceptions and all that sort of thing, wherever (turnovers) might come, are very important in winning and losing games."
Detroit was bolstered by the play of safety Bracey Walker, named the NFC special team's player of the week after his return for a touchdown of Shaun Rogers' field goal block.
Walker's 92-yard touchdown return was the longest in Detroit Lions history.
Mariucci said Detroit wants to continue to win the battle of the miscues. "I'm hoping that we emphasize it enough and train these guys properly to be able to hang onto it in traffic and there's always an emphasis on defense in stripping it and taking it away. It's more than just the ball carriers. It's the snap from center, it's the ball handling, kick returners, punt returners and all those sort of things."
Since winning the turnover battle for 16 games isn't really feasible, Detroit hopes to offset the times they can't win it with solid play on both sides of the football.
Lions quarterback Joey Harrington believes that developing consistency is the most important thing the team can accomplish.
"Every game has the exact same importance as every other game," said Harrington. "People want to make a big deal about the importance of building momentum or the importance of breaking a road streak or the importance of setting a tone at home or the importance of going 2-0 in your division. They're all important.
"There aren't any games that are any less important than the others."
Detroit's James Hall suffered a broken thumb in the Chicago game but Mariucci stated that he will play with a small cast to protect the injury.
"He got some pins in his thumb. He had surgery so they casted it. He's got a pretty thick cast right now that he practiced in and he will play in a smaller and more functional cast on game day. He says that he'll be able to play and can play. Doctors say he's fine to play so he'll wear that cast for awhile."
The coach also updated the status of wide receiver Charles Rogers, who will suffer through another lost season with a broken collarbone.
"I had lunch with him today. He was talking about possible surgery tomorrow. I will confirm that with the doctors and trainers but possibly tomorrow."
Detroit also held out starting corners Fernando Bryant and Andre Goodman from practice yesterday as a precautionary move.
"Well, Fernando Bryant had a mild concussion in the game, so today he still felt a little out of sorts. We kept him out to freshen him up a little bit. Andre Goodman just felt a little tight like he did a week ago with his legs, particularly his right leg, so we just backed him off, the same thing as last week."
The coaching staff feels wide receiver David Kircus is in a better position to help the team than he was a season ago. Mariucci said a year in the Lions system has been very beneficial for the former Grand Valley State standout.
"Typically the fifth receiver on your active roster needs to be a backup at all those positions. He's better equipped to do that this year than he was a year ago - being that he was a rookie. He's got to be able to back up at several different spots.
Luckily, we've got some receivers on board that know the other spots too so we're going to mix and match and use all of our guys. We still feel we're in good shape at the receiving group. Az (Hakim) has been at every spot. Tai Streets has been at every spot before and Roy Williams is the newest guy so we'll be okay."
Coaches Believe Turnovers Are Key To Winning
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