Cornerback Ralph Brown (right) is congratulated by teammates Gabe Watson (center) and Rod Hood after Brown's interception in Carolina last weekend.
A defense can get to the point where it can "will" turnovers, Ralph Brown figures.
Why else, the veteran cornerback figures, have many people stopped referring to them as "turnovers" and started calling them "takeaways?"
"When you focus on that in practice, it shows up in the game," Brown said. "Punching the ball out, looking for the ball as a defensive back, stripping the ball. You can force turnovers."
The Cardinals certainly have been during their historic playoff run, which has put them in the NFC Championship game Sunday against Philadelphia.
At the heart of their 33-13 Divisional round win in Carolina were six takeaways – five interceptions and a fumble recovery. The fumble and three of the interceptions led to 20 points. One interception was in the Arizona end zone to stop a Panther threat. And one interception gave the Cardinals both – it was picked off at the 1-yard line and eventually led to a field goal.
"They always come in bunches, like sacks, like anything that happens good on defense," defensive end Bertrand Berry said. "Hopefully we haven't run out, hopefully we have a few more left."
Winning the turnover battle in an individual game has been a long-held belief as a winning stat in the NFL. The Cardinals have turned that into a stone-cold fact. In 18 games this season, Arizona is 1-7 when losing the turnover ratio, and 10-0 when winning or breaking even in the category.
In two playoff games, the Cards have forced nine turnovers and scored 37 points off of them.
"We feed off each other on the turnovers," said Brown, whose end-zone interception was his third straight game with a pick. "One guy gets one, the next guy says he wants one."
Much discussion after the Cards' playoff wins has been about the poor play of the quarterbacks they have gone against; in particular, Carolina's Jake Delhomme suffered through one of the worst games a quarterback has had after being responsible for all six turnovers.
But the Cardinals' defense was a factor in the errors. Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said he baited Delhomme into throwing the ball he intercepted to short-circuit an early Carolina drive, and safety Adrian Wilson didn't seem all that eager to place blame on Delhomme.
"We were in the right places," Wilson said. "We didn't beat ourselves. There are a lot of what ifs out there."
The Cardinals tied for fifth in the NFL with 30 takeaways this season, including a league-high 17 fumble recoveries. Despite just 13 interceptions in the regular season, the Cards have seven in the postseason.
On the other side of the ledger, the Cardinals have turned the ball over just twice in two games.
The stat line will be a significant one against the pressure, blitzing defense of the Eagles. Quarterback Kurt Warner threw three interceptions in the teams' earlier meeting this season, and wide receiver Anquan Boldin lost a fumble.
The Eagles didn't turn the ball over that night.
"It's going to take us getting the ball turned over and giving the offense opportunities with a short field to win this game," Berry said.
Contact Darren Urban at firstname.lastname@example.org. Posted 1/14/09.
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