It's All About The Defense

Sometimes having a knack for piling up turnovers is not only a good thing, but can lead a team to achieve success unlike anything else. Who are the best of the best at converting those turnovers into success? (Take the FREE TRIAL to read this and other premium stories on Scout.com)

Photo: Rashaen Mathis (getty)

BONUS POINTS IN STORE FOR DEFENSES THAT REACH END ZONE

It’s the ultimate moment for a defensive player when he snags an interception and returns it for a touchdown or secures a fumble recovery and races the distance for a score. Defensive touchdowns are immeasurable in a league where every point is earned and not given.

“You can’t count on defensive scores, they’re like a gift, but to be a good football team and win consistently, you have to have defensive points or short fields set up to score more points,” says NFL Network analyst Steve Mariucci. “It’s a must if you want to be on top of your division. You have to have help from your defense.”

Former All-Star cornerback and NFL Network analyst Deion Sanders says it’s a plus to register a turnover, but to take it to the next level and reach the end zone is an added bonus. “It’s definitely a momentum-changer whenever you create turnovers, but to capitalize and take it to the house for a touchdown, that’s what a defensive player strives for on each play,” says Sanders, who registered 10 defensive touchdowns in his career. “For defensive players it’s not the norm for them to run with the ball or receive the ball, so it’s a definite bonus for them to take it all the way for a score.”

“It’s kind of like a 70-yard-long pass or a 70-yard run,” says Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Rashean Mathis, who is tied for the league lead with two defensive touchdowns in 2008. “It gives the offense a boost. It’s a game-changing play.”

The players with the most defensive touchdowns through Week 8:

PLAYER/TEAM
DEFENSIVE TDs 2008
S Nick Collins, Green Bay
2
CB Rashean Mathis, Jacksonville
2
CB Charles Woodson, Green Bay
2

The first step in getting to “pay dirt” for NFL defenses is creating the turnover. The second step to actually scoring is all about your mentality, says Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, whose unit is tied with Tampa Bay for the most defensive touchdowns since 2000 (29). “It is about instincts and it is about guys hustling,” says Schwartz. “There is a mentality to it, wanting to capitalize and score on it.”

Teams certainly want to capitalize and score on the mistakes of offenses. Mathis, who has INT-TD returns of 61 and 72 yards this season, says it’s a norm for the Jaguars’ defense to practice reaching the end zone.

“We actually do practice getting our hands on the ball,” says Mathis. “We practice on getting to the numbers (on the outside) and not just having an interception but scoring with it. You practice on making the offensive linemen try to tackle you. We practice on blocking the receiver who was supposed to catch the ball and getting the ball into the end zone.”

The most defensive touchdowns by a team since 2000:

TEAM
DEFENSIVE TDs
Tampa Bay
29
Tennessee
29
Baltimore
28
Green Bay
28
Chicago
27
New England
27

Players with the most defensive touchdowns since 2000:

PLAYER
DEFENSIVE TDs
CB Ronde Barber, Tampa Bay
10
S Mike Brown, Chicago
7
LB Derrick Brooks, Tampa Bay
7
LB-DE Jason Taylor, Miami-Washington
7
S Darren Sharper, GB-Minnesota
7

 


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