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Broncos have struggled to force turnovers, but feel 'the takeaways will come'

Posted Oct 19, 2017

They've worked on strip-the-ball drills this week in an effort to restore the turnover touch that has helped them win 26 of their last 30 games in which they've forced at least one takeaway.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Any discussion of what ailed the Broncos in their 23-10 loss to the New York Giants last Sunday revolved around turnovers.

But it was not just about the giveaways — the conversation also centers on the lack of takeaways.

The Broncos are the only team in the NFL that has not forced a fumble so far this season, and their average of 0.8 takeaways per game is tied for 26th in the league.

Denver's defense is at or near the top of the league in almost every statistical metric. Thus, the aberration naturally catches your eye, even if statistics aren't your cup of tea.

"I'm really not a stats guy, because it really comes down to wins and losses," Defensive Coordinator Joe Woods said. "It's a bottom-line business. Do you win on Sunday? Do you lose on Sunday?"

That is why the takeaway statistic is so potent. The Broncos have lost nine consecutive games in which they have failed to generate a takeaway.

The last time they won without a takeaway was Nov. 1, 2015 against the Packers. In that same span, they are 20-4 -- including postseason -- when they produce at least one takeaway.

In the gloom of last Sunday's loss, you heard "turnovers" over and over, as if on repeat play from all corners of the locker room. Two interceptions and a fumble derailed the Broncos' hopes.

But it was inside linebacker Brandon Marshall who pointed out that the loss was also about the defense’s inability to generate takeaways.

"As a defense, man, we've got to make plays. We've got to get turnovers," he said.

Three days later, they were a point of emphasis. Defenders did extra strip-the-ball drills in practice Wednesday, and Woods showed his players a film of cut-ups of players on other teams stripping the football loose.

"Coaches were telling us that turnovers, man, they don't just happen," said nose tackle Domata Peko Sr.. "It comes from effort and it comes from practicing ripping the ball out and stuff like that.

"These past couple of days, we've been running around, trying to rip the ball out, just practicing that stuff, because when you practice it, it's going to happen for you in the game, and turnovers are very important."

They're important, but one of the reasons they haven't come is because of what the Broncos do right in terms of pressure and coverage.

"The way that teams are playing us, they're getting rid of the ball, and we watch all of our third downs, we've got guys coming free, the quarterback's taking one hitch and throwing the ball," Woods said. "So we're creating a lot of incompletions and we don't have a lot of opportunities to make plays on the ball. So that's the negative part.

"The positive, if you look at third downs, we're second in the league in third downs. If you add fourth downs, we're first in the league. So we're getting off the field and doing what we need to do, they're just not giving us a lot of opportunities to get turnovers in terms of interceptions."

But every run offers a chance for a fumble -- which is where the strip-the-ball work comes into play. Denver's run defense remains the league leader on a per-carry basis and is No. 2 in rushing yards allowed per game.

If the Broncos continue to swarm, Head Coach Vance Joseph believes turnovers will eventually follow.

"Just playing hard and chasing the ball and getting more pressure on the quarterback -- those things will turn," he said. "I'm not concerned about that to be honest, guys. If we play defense and we're good in the red zone and we're good on third down, that's my concern.

"The takeaways will come."