Saints brace for Bears ability to create turnovers
Saints coach Sean Payton is driving home one big message this week in New Orleans - turnovers are the most important statistic in football.
And the Bears, the Saints' next opponent, are the best there is at taking the ball away, Patyon said.
"It's something that doesn't happen by accident," Payton said. "To have the numbers that they have is something that is obviously emphasized and worked on."
Chicago (3-1) leads the NFL in 2013 with 14 takeaways, including eight fumble recoveries. The Bears have produced at least three takeaways in every game this season and finished with five in a win over Pittsburgh. They've scored three of the team's 15 touchdowns on returns this season.
Since 2006, in fact, the Bears have forced fewer than 31 turnovers just once and have ended the season in the top five in taking the ball away six times.
Meanwhile, New Orleans (4-0) to this point has remained one of five undefeated teams by taking care of the ball. Only four teams have turned it over fewer than the Saints' five this season and because of an opportunistic defense that has taken the ball away 10 times, New Orleans ranks among the league's best in differential this year at plus-five.
As much as it's a point of emphasis in Chicago, Payton and first-year defensive coordinator Rob Ryan have made it one in New Orleans, too.
Of course, it helps when the defense understands that giving quarterback Drew Brees more possessions isn't a bad thing, either.
"Every turnover you get, you give him one more possession and that's one more opportunity to score and that separates games with him," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "The more and more we can get him the football, the chances we are we're going to win that game."
Still, it's what the Bears defense can do that puts the onus on the offense to take care of the football.
Defensive back Charles Tillman is among the league's best in getting the ball out, forcing 10 fumbles in 2012 alone. This season, three players - linebacker Lance Briggs and defensive backs Major Wright and Tim Jennings - have each forced two fumbles. Tillman and Wright, meanwhile, have two interceptions apiece.
"You can tell just by watching film that it is a point of emphasis for them," receiver Marques Colston said. "They fly around and they get population around the football. It is just going to be one of those games where it is going to be a point of emphasis."
Turnovers will likely play a major key in whether the Saints leave Soldier Field with a win for the first time in Payton's tenure in New Orleans. They've lost three straight there, including the 2006 season's NFC championship game in which New Orleans was minus-four, losing three fumbles and an interception in a 39-14 defeat.
"Obviously history has not treated us well in Soldier Field, so obviously we all want to be able to go up there, play well and get a win," Brees said. "I know the Bears are coming off of a tough loss in the division, so they are going to be ripe and ready to play us. We need our best, there's no doubt about it."
And that gets back to Payton's message this week - take care of the ball because that will be the difference in getting to 5-0 instead of coming back to New Orleans 4-1.
"Time and time again, that is the number one stat in football and really if you look at the difference in the turnovers, that is going to lead you to the winner or loser of any given game," Colston said.
Notes: The Saints will travel to Chicago a day ahead of schedule to make sure they can leave the city before Tropical Storm Karen approaches. It's the second time since Sean Payton arrived that a tropical system has changed plans. Hurricane Gustav in 2008 forced the team to briefly practice in Indianapolis before the season opener while Hurricane Isaac in 2012 sent the team to Cincinnati for a practice before the team played its final preseason game at Tennessee.
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