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Big takeaway margin won't ensure success

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Recent posts by Kevin Fishbain

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By Kevin Fishbain

Due to Tom Brady's NFL record of 335 consecutive pass attempts without throwing an interception and a starting running back who hasn't fumbled in his NFL career, the Patriots compiled a league-high plus-28 turnover margin despite having a below-average defense. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it's the best turnover margin since the 1983 Redskins registered a plus-43.

Although 18 of the league's past 21 turnover-margin leaders have made the playoffs, only three of those teams have gone on to win the Super Bowl: the 1991 Redskins, 2000 Ravens and '02 Buccaneers. The '10 Patriots hope to add to that trend.

Here's a look at the teams that led the league in turnover margin over the past 10 years and how they fared.

2009 Packers / plus-24 — The Packers were an intercepting machine, leading the league with 30 picks, thanks in part to Charles Woodson's nine. Aaron Rodgers tossed just seven picks all season. The Pack had an 11-5 record and lost to the Cardinals in a wild-card shootout in which Rodgers and Donald Driver each lost a fumble and Rodgers was picked off once.

2008 Dolphins / plus-17 — Winning the turnover battle was a big reason for the Dolphins' turnaround from 1-15 to 11-5. RBs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams had a combined three fumbles lost all season. QB Chad Pennington threw only seven picks during the regular season but tossed four in the wild-card playoff loss to the Ravens.

2007 Chargers / plus-24 — Antonio Cromartie's 10 interceptions helped San Diego lead the league in the category by a wide margin. LaDainian Tomlinson did not fumble once all season. Philip Rivers tossed 15 picks, plus two more in the Chargers' AFC championship-game loss to the Patriots. The Super Bowl-winning Giants ranked 26th with a minus-9 turnover margin.

2006 Ravens / plus-17 — The Ravens' defense made up for QB Steve McNair's 12 picks by leading the league with 28 interceptions. In the playoff loss to the Colts, Ed Reed had two interceptions, but McNair threw two of his own and lost a fumble.

2005 Bengals / plus-24 — The Bengals led the league with 31 interceptions. CB Deltha O'Neal had 10 picks and QB Carson Palmer had a 32-12 TD-to-interception ratio. After Palmer was injured on his first pass attempt of the playoff loss to the Steelers, Jon Kitna came in and threw two picks, and the Bengals' "D" forced zero turnovers.

2004 Colts / plus-19 — In what many consider to be Peyton Manning's best statistical season, the Colts' QB tossed 49 TD passes and 10 picks, while RB Edgerrin James lost only two fumbles in 334 carries. Meanwhile, the Indy defense nabbed 19 picks on the season. Yet, in the AFC divisional round vs. the Patriots, the Colts lost the turnover battle 3-0 and wound up losing to the eventual Super Bowl champs.

2003 Chiefs / plus-19 — During the season, Priest Holmes carried the ball 320 times for 1,420 yards and 27 TDs and fumbled only once as K.C. went 13-3. Fumble No. 2 came at a poor time, in the AFC divisional-round loss to the Colts.

2002 (tie) Buccaneers / plus-17 — Playing their famed Tampa-2 defense, the Bucs picked off 31 passes during the regular season. They got even tougher in the postseason, forcing 13 turnovers compared to four giveaways. In their Super Bowl win over the Raiders, Tampa Bay intercepted QB Rich Gannon five times, returning three for TDs.

2002 (tie) Packers / plus-17 — Even with Brett Favre throwing 16 picks, the Pack still posted a great turnover margin behind a tough defense. Green Bay forced 21 lost fumbles, and Darren Sharper picked off a team-high seven passes.

2001 Jets / plus-18 — New York built up most of its margin between Weeks 2-5, when they forced 14 turnovers and didn't cough it up once. They weren't able to sustain it in the playoffs, however, as they lost two fumbles in helping the Raiders knock them out in the wild-card round.

2000 Ravens / plus-23 — One of the tougher defenses in NFL history was one of the best at taking the ball away, as the Ravens forced at least one turnover in all 20 of their regular-season and playoff games. The unit was at its best when it mattered most, forcing five turnovers in both their AFC championship and Super Bowl victories.

 

PFW associate editor Eli Kaberon contributed to this article.

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