Patriots 60-second rant: Turnover margin worth monitoring

Posted Oct. 19, 2011 @ 2:39 a.m.
Posted By Kevin Fishbain

We knew the Patriots were not going to replicate last year's plus-28 turnover margin, the best since the 1983 Redskins, but the sure-handed squad has not been winning the turnover battle of late.

Through six games, the Patriots are tied for 16th in the league with a plus-1 turnover margin. They turned the ball over four times in Sunday's win over the Cowboys.

Last season, the Pats were the model for taking the ball away, leading the league with 25 interceptions. Their 10 giveaways were the fewest in the league by a decent margin — Kansas City was second with 14.

Part of the reason for the Patriots' success last season in the turnover battle was certainly Tom Brady, who set an NFL record for consecutive pass attempts without an interception. RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis has not fumbled on any of his 420 NFL carries.

This season, while Green-Ellis has continued to hold on to the football, his teammates haven't. Brady, who threw four interceptions last season, has already doubled that. He threw two in the win over the Cowboys and four in Week Three against the Bills.

TE Aaron Hernandez and KR Matthew Slater each lost fumbles in Sunday's game, as well. The Cowboys were going for the strip on plays to Hernandez, something to keep an eye on, as he is one of Brady's top targets.

In the takeaway category, the Patriots have been average, picking off eight passes. CB Kyle Arrington has been the bright spot with his four interceptions. The defense is getting better, but this team still needs to create turnovers considering the amount of yardage opponents are gaining.

Is a plus-1 turnover margin a concern? Well, Bill Belichick will likely tell you that wins are what matters and that they always try to win the turnover battle. Opponents are learning that the way to beat Brady is to have more players in coverage and rely on your D-line to apply pressure. With more players in coverage, the margin of error is slimmer, and opponents have taken advantage.

For now, there is no reason for panic, but it is something that needs to be emphasized during the bye week on both sides of the football. It didn't matter how many points the Patriots gave up last season — their astounding turnover margin gave them a big advantage in every game. As a whole this season, they aren't winning that battle, and there are few more efficient ways to pull off an upset than to force turnovers. Just ask the Bills.