Originally created 12/23/01

Turnovers tell tale for Jets, Colts



INDIANAPOLIS -- As a player, Herman Edwards preached to his teammates the importance of turnovers. Now Edwards, coach of the New York Jets, is instilling the same theory in his players.

As they enter Sunday night's game with the Indianapolis Colts, Edwards' Jets are chasing a playoff spot, primarily because they have become the NFL's best at protecting the ball and taking it away.

"I always told the players, especially when you're on defense, that your name doesn't get in the newspaper for knocking the ball down," Edwards said. "It goes in the paper when you pick it off."

The Jets understand the message: produce turnovers, win games; commit turnovers, lose games.

The contrast couldn't be any more stark than it will be Sunday night, when the league's best team in turnover differential, the Jets, meet the league's worst team in that catergory, the Colts.

"This is Herman's style of aggressive defense, and the defense they ran in Tampa was an attacking style and they got a lot of takeaways," cornerback Ray Mickens said. "Watching film of that got our mindset in to getting takeaways."

With three games remaining, the results have been remarkable.

New York has produced 36 turnovers, a league high, committed just 13, a league low, and its plus-23 differential is nearly twice as high as the next closest team - Cleveland at plus-12.

Not surprisingly, New York (8-5) is making a run at the playoffs.

"Probably, we'd be about .500 or somewhere right around there if not for the turnovers," Edwards said.

Indianapolis, in contrast, has struggled.

Despite throwing just one interception in a victory last week, Peyton Manning still leads the NFL with 21 and the Colts' minus-16 differential is 31st.

That's contributed, in large part, to Indianapolis' 5-8 record, a mark that has left them on the outside of the playoff race.

"Yes, not easily, but we could have," coach Jim Mora said when asked whether the Colts, a preseason AFC favorite, would have won more games with fewer turnovers. "But it's not that simple."

Numbers, Mora pointed out, can be misleading.

The Colts and Jets, for instance, each have fumbled the ball 18 times. But while Indianapolis has lost 13, the Jets have lost just five.

Mora knows all the problems giveaways can create, as he expressed in his postgame news conference following a loss to San Francisco a month ago - and reiterated this week.

"Sometimes, that's just the way ball bounces," Mora said. "There's no question the takeaway-giveaway ratio is a big factor, but there's more involved than just turnovers."

Like the mindset.

The other part of the equation is a conservative approach that's prevented the Jets from making too many miscues.

They've relied primarily on Curtis Martin, the AFC's No. 2 rusher with 1,218 yards. That's allowed Vinny Testaverde to limit the chances he takes. His eight interceptions are the second fewest among quarterbacks who have started every game this season, and that's by design.

"When I got here, everybody said the problem with this team was the guy throws interceptions," offensive coordinator Paul Hackett said of Testaverde. "So we made a decision. Turnovers. Take care of the football. Establish a runner - you have a premier runner."

Edwards, who intercepted 38 passes in his career with Philadelphia, couldn't have asked for anything more.

The Jets are taking care of the football, taking away the football and are winning because of it - just like Edwards' always believed.

"I think it is a mindset," Edwards said. "When you show a guy, then it becomes function of how we play. It's an opportunity league and you have to take advantage when that window opens."