NEW ORLEANS -- It's the turnovers, stupid.
With apologies to former White House advisor James Carville and his famous 1992 election slogan for Bill Clinton: "It's the economy, stupid", Saints coach Sean Payton was right on the mark.
Creating turnovers by his defence has been one of his team's trademarks as last season they numbered 35 in that department and turnovers were a big plus in both their NFC championship game triumph over Minnesota and the Super Bowl win over Indianapolis.
"Part of winning the game is scoring more points and certainly turnovers win or lose games," Payton said the other day. "I would say that the turnovers were the difference in that game (five turnovers by Minnesota against one by the Saints)."
"Week by week you look to be on the plus side of that," Payton continued. "We study that statistic and we study our history of what we do when we protect the ball. What we are record-wise when we're plus one, what we are when we don't turn it over on offence -- we're 15-0 -- what we are when the defence forces a turnover. Look, that isn't new, that statistic is as old as the hills. So when you finish five takeaways to one giveaway (last year's NFC championship game), you're going to win 95% of those games. It's a key statistic in our game.
"If you study the post-season history, if you found a plus-four differential -- I would challenge you that you would never find a winner minus-four."
"Ball security is something that's critical in playoff football and it's something that's critical in this week's game as well. Chances are the team that wins the turnover battle Thursday night will have a better chance of winning."