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Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Winning formula: No turnovers

By Mike Reiss

One of the common threads in the Patriots' four-game winning streak is taking care of the football. Quarterback Tom Brady hasn't thrown an interception over that span, and the Patriots have lost just one fumble (vs. Chiefs, Brady stripped).

While football in a complex game, sometimes it can be simplified: Take care of the ball and you give yourself the best chance to win.

This was a topic brought up to offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien today on media conference calls.

"We emphasize that. One of the keys in every game is always going to be to not turn the ball over, and to take care of the football, and ball security," O'Brien said. "If you're the ballcarrier, handling the ball, you're handling the lifeline of the team.

"Our defense does a good job of trying to strip us after the play and things like that, to remind us to take care of the ball. There has been a lot of emphasis on it, which has always been the case, but I just think we're doing a better job of it the last couple games."

No player has his hands on the ball more than the quarterback, which is why Brady is the key. His decision-making and accuracy have also been sharper.

"He's as hard on himself on interceptions and strip sacks as I can be," O'Brien said. "He's done a really good job in drill work, in practice, of reminding himself -- me reminding him, the backup quarterbacks reminding him -- to take care of the ball. 'This is a good throw. This is a nice job of taking the ball in the pocket.' I think over the last four weeks he's really improved." 

On the season, the Patriots rank fourth in the NFL in turnover differential (plus-8 with 23 takeaways and 15 giveaways).

Prior to the four-game winning streak, they were ranked tied for 15th with an even differential (14 takeaways, 14 giveaways).

The Redskins rank tied for last in the NFL in turnover differential (minus-13).