Sunday, October 13, 2013
Turnover margin working in Rams' favor
By Nick Wagoner
HOUSTON -- If anyone still needed a case study to prove that there's no statistic more important in the NFL than turnover margin, the St. Louis Rams' 38-13 win over the Texans on Sunday should provide ample evidence.
For the second week in a row, the Rams not only created multiple turnovers but turned them into instant points and didn't have any giveaways of their own. They even went one better than last week's plus-three output and added a special teams touchdown for good measure.
The Rams' plus-four takeaway margin was the first time they've hit that mark since a Week 8 game against Carolina in 2010.
"That was a big thing and we did not turn the football over," coach Jeff Fisher said. "Keeping the penalties down and protecting the football and not turning it over for us has been very helpful for us the last two weeks."
Alec Ogletree returns an interception 98 yards for a touchdown against the Texans.
That's probably putting it mildly.
During the Rams' three-game losing streak earlier this season, they weren't awful in turnover margin, netting a minus-one for those three games, but it's quite clear the difference it makes when there's a plus at the beginning of the construction.
Houston outgained the Rams 420 to 216 in total yards while running 73 plays to the Rams' 41, gaining a dozen more first downs and holding a time of possession edge of 11 minutes and 20 seconds. By all accounts, those numbers would portend a blowout victory. They did, but not in the direction you'd expect.
That's because of the 98-yard interception return for a touchdown by linebacker Alec Ogletree, the interception in his own end zone by cornerback Janoris Jenkins, Ogletree's forced fumble and recovery by James Laurinaitis and the 11-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown by linebacker Daren Bates while covering a kick.
Those four plays resulted in 17 Rams points and provided enough to give the Rams a victory.
"When you can score defensive touchdowns, those are game changers," Laurinaitis said. "Those don't come a whole lot. So when you get them, that can change the whole outcome of the game. It's detrimental for them when you give them up."
On the other side of the ball, the Rams have showed a penchant for taking care of the ball and did so with a balanced offensive game plan that was effective in the short bursts when it was actually on the field.
Quarterback Sam Bradford attempted only 16 passes but he threw no interceptions. His offensive line allowed no sacks and thus, no opportunities for strip sacks. Running back Zac Stacy protected the ball at all costs despite regularly finding himself in heavy traffic with opponents ripping at the ball.
Before the end of Week 6, the Rams' six turnovers put them in a tie for fourth fewest in the league.
Even as yards might accumulate against the defense or the offense continues to search for some consistency, the takeaway formula remains tried and true.
After the Rams scored on a 4-yard touchdown pass from Bradford to Brian Quick with 7:46 remaining in the third quarter, the offense didn't get back on the field until there was 11:56 to go in the game, a span of 10 minutes and 48 seconds without the ball.
But because of the touchdowns from Bates and Ogletree, the Rams' lead increased from 24-6 to an insurmountable 38-6. And with that, any hope the Texans entertained of a comeback was gone.
"They're huge," Bradford said. "Anytime our defense creates a turnover, it just gives us a spark on offense and then in the second half today, the one on special teams and then the pick-6, we come off the field and we're up 24-6 and the next time we come on the field we're up 38-6. Those are two huge plays in the game and they just gave us a lot of momentum and kind of sealed the deal."