Let me preface this by saying that I'm not taking anything away from the success the New Orleans Saints have had this season. Their 7-0 record is impressive and the best start for the franchise in its history. Winning games in the NFL is no easy task (see: 2009 Washington Redskins) and gets no easier when teams come in to end your streak. In eight weeks, the Saints have proven that winning is the name of the game, and ignoring their impressive statistics, they've shown you don't have to be perfect to achieve perfection.
Over the past two weeks against the Miami Dolphins and Atlanta Falcons the Saints have turned the ball over nine times. Yes...you read that correctly, nine turnovers in two games. Quarterback Drew Brees owns six of those nine turnovers with four interceptions and two fumbles.
The game against the Dolphins caught my attention however, the interceptions by Brees and the fumble, all took place in the first half of the game. In the second half the Saints went on to dominate and carefully executed their comeback to go on and win the game. Even though I had my reservations, I surmised that all teams have bad games and ball control is usually where those problems begin. For the Saints, this was a bad game, nothing to be alarmed over. In the following week however, against the Falcons the same mistakes were back, and this time they were occurring in crucial moments throughout the game. These turnovers wouldn't be easily explained away, as they opened up opportunities for Atlanta to take full advantage of. For Brees he threw one interception and lost one fumble a mere fraction of his performance for the week before. Of course, in the end Atlanta proved unable to capitalize and complete the upset, but I decided I wanted to dig deeper into the second sloppy performance by the Saints.
In past seasons, teams with undefeated records through week eight averaged between +5 -+10 in turnover ratios. The Saints are right where they should be in that respect sitting at +7, but that number is significantly altered by their overwhelming total takeaways on defense. So far, this season the Saints' defense has 21 takeaways which are tied with the Philadelphia Eagles' as the highest number in the league. However, unlike the Eagles, who only have five giveaways, the Saints have 14, which means they're almost giving the ball away as often as they're taking it. *I hope that math session didn't make anyone fall asleep*
The Saints have been able to recover from turning the ball over this season because their defense has been able to create turnovers, which has balanced out the glaring numbers by their offense. The numbers, however, don't lie and should be noted by other teams as they face the Saints this season. The two teams that have threatened the Saints record and exposed some of their weaknesses have been the Dolphins and the Falcons. It's no coincidence that they're also the teams responsible for nine of the 14 turnovers the Saints have committed this year. If Atlanta makes those two missed field goals, we're possibly looking at a different outcome. I'm sure this hasn't been lost on the remaining teams on the Saints schedule.
Eventually, I believe if the Saints continue turning the ball over, not only will they lose but they will severely alter the strength of their team entering into post season. Protecting the ball is key in any game, particularly in the playoffs and the Saints have shown that it's not one of their strengths when facing teams that play them tough in games
So a word of advice to other teams out there: the Saints understand that perfect games aren't necessary to win -- take note of it and expose it in the future.