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Cardinals Turning Turnovers Into Winning Combination

Team is second in the NFL with a plus-12 differential

Defensive end Zach Allen returns an interception against the Bears during Sunday's win in Chicago.
Defensive end Zach Allen returns an interception against the Bears during Sunday's win in Chicago.

At the beginning of the season, Kliff Kingsbury and his coaching staff prioritized two areas of focus heading into 2021: Creating turnovers and protecting the football.

The result of that has been positive 12 games into the season -- a plus-12, to be exact.

The plus-12 is the Cardinals' turnover ratio, second in the NFL. Their plus-17 on the road is best in the league. There is some luck involved -- the Cardinals have been charged with 24 fumbles this season, yet have amazingly lost only three -- but Kingsbury sees the attention the Cards have paid to the issue.

"I would say there is a healthy dose of both in it," the head coach said. "We made a conscious effort to emphasize ball security and taking the ball away. We have a couple of drills weekly; just refocus the guys on every week. The points of emphasis are protecting the football or taking it away.

"Our assistant special teams coach (Devin Fitzsimmons) does a tremendous job in leading that, and we've seen progress in that area. So, I think there is some luck involved, but our guys are making a conscious effort to generate and be conscious when carrying the football."

After a four-interception performance Sunday at Soldier Field, the Cardinals have 23 total takeaways, tying Dallas for the fifth-most in the NFL. Indianapolis (14) is the only team with more fumble recoveries. The Cardinals also have 12 picks this season, tying Green Bay, Kansas City, and the Los Angeles Rams for the sixth-most in the league.

Against the Bears, defensive end Zach Allen had his first career interception and admitted his next goal after getting a turnover is reaching the end zone. Allen echoed Kingsbury in what has been focused most this year in practice.

"That's been the main focus every single day in practice," Allen said. "We're seeing it pay off. The benefits of it have been really exciting, and it's something I want to continue.

"I have to work on the run after the catch. I was just excited and ran in a straight line. I didn't pay attention to anything else. So, hopefully, we get another chance at that sooner or later."

The offense, which ranks fourth in points scored this season, has also been very efficient in the turnover department. Their offense has 13 giveaways; only Seattle, Green Bay, and Minnesota have fewer.

Kingsbury said the results from both ball units are the most significant stat of importance to him, citing that all winning football teams perform reasonably well in that department.

"For me, it's the No.1 stat," Kingsbury said. "If you looked year-in and year-out and traced it back 20 years to teams playing in the playoffs or the championship games, they are really high on the plus side of that. Teams who aren't having great years are usually down at the bottom. So, to me, that is the biggest stat in football."

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