New England Patriots practice forcing fumbles


Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin said yesterday that the New England Patriots do a great job of preparing to force turnovers by focusing a lot of practice time on that aspect of the game. Bill Belichick has made some statements that affirm the observations Philbin made yesterday, and it includes an interesting quote about how the Patriots focus on forcing fumbles.

Belichick told CSNNE, “We work on stripping the ball everyday, recovering them everyday, and we talk about opportunities to get the ball back, and we watch film.”

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“If we see certain types of plays, certain techniques, point those out. If we’re in a situation where we have an opportunity to be in the throwing lane, or disrupt the ball, or strip it out.”

The New England Patriots have forced as many fumbles (26) as their overall turnover margin total (+26) this season, with both being league-highs. What stands out to me the most is that the Patriots have covered a whopping 18 of those fumbles for a nearly 70% conversion rate.

Forced Fumbles

Rob Ninkovich 5

Brandon Spikes 4

Jerod Mayo 3

Chandler Jones 3

Recovered Fumbles

Rob Ninkovich 4

Vince Wilfork 3

The Patriots, by the way, have only lost five fumbles this entire season as an offense. Tom Brady, Wes Welker, and Stevan Ridley lead the team with two fumbles each (does not reflect “lost” totals).

It’s interesting to hear that Belichick and the Pats are specifically focusing on watching tape to generate fumbles, and it seems like there isn’t another team that focuses more on forcing fumbles and pouncing on them in practices. That sort of “moneyball” coaching and team preparation is one of the keys to success for the Patriots, and they continue to take advantage of one of the most important statistics in the NFL- turnover differential. Coaches always point to it, and it’s pretty obvious why it’s important. If you limit your own turnovers and force a ton of them, that covers up deficiencies on defense (especially with regards to giving up big plays on pass defense) and makes you a much stronger team overall.

My favorite example of how a high turnover differential can propel a team to greatness is the New Orleans Saints team that won the Super Bowl in the 2009-2010 NFL season. They didn’t have the best players in coverage, but they had a ton of playmakers in the secondary with veteran safety Darren Sharper leading the way.

You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.