FOXBORO, Mass. — Turnovers have the potential to be season killers at this stage of the NFL playoffs.
The New England Patriots have already been tested once against a ball-hawking defense this postseason. The Kansas City Chiefs forced the second-most turnovers and the most interceptions of any AFC team during the regular season, but the Patriots offense held onto the ball and committed zero turnovers in a 27-20 victory last week.
New England faces another tough test Sunday when it travels to Denver to take on the Broncos in the AFC Championship Game.
The Broncos’ 27 turnovers in the regular season ranked tied for seventh in the league, and they forced a fumble late in the fourth quarter that set up the game-winning touchdown in last week’s divisional round matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady stressed Thursday the importance of ball security against an elite Denver defense.
“Turnovers are a big part of every game,” Brady said before practice at Gillette Stadium. “We talk about that as a strong correlation over the course of the entire season. You look at teams with the top turnover ratios and how many times a team — they win or lose depending on the amount of turnovers, usually. We have like a 95 percent winning percentage when we don?t turn the ball over. I think one of our top goals every week is to not turn it over, because if we don?t turn it over, we?ve got a great chance of winning.”
The Patriots have done a great job protecting the ball this season. They’ve turned it over just 14 times in 17 games, including the playoffs. It’s the lowest turnover total of any team.
Brady threw seven interceptions in the regular season, which tied Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith for the fewest in the league.
“I think as a quarterback, over the course of the game, if you?re down 10 in the fourth quarter, you?ve got to switch in your mind, you?ve got to take more chances,” Brady said. “I don?t think you need to do that in the first quarter. That?s something that I?ve learned that?s part of my ball security.”
Brady also has played against Peyton Manning’s Broncos three times, including the 2013 AFC title game, and he’s totaled 11 touchdowns and only one interception. New England will need a similar level of ball security to beat Denver on Sunday and make back-to-back Super Bowl appearances.
“Ball security is a team-wide thing,” Brady said. “It?s not just a quarterback interception thing, or a running back fumble thing. Everyone plays a part. So, when we do it well and it leads to wins, I think everyone on offense feels really good about it.”
Thumbnail photo via Jim O’Connor/USA TODAY Sports Images