I got a question on Twitter from @mdlube7783, who wants to know where the takeaways are:
@Rich_Tandler wasn't 3-4 installed to produce turnovers? Where are they?
The Redskins are tied for worst in the league with a minus-13 turnover ratio. They are suffering on both ends of the equation. They have turned the ball over 28 times this year. Only the Eagles, with 29, have more offensive giveaways. And, to the point of the question, the Redskins have 15 takeaways. Only four NFL teams have fewer.
Last week, I looked at one of the reasons for the Redskins’ paucity of takeaways this year. They aren’t very good at getting the ball when it’s on the ground. Since I posted the article, they did recover the one Jets fumble last Sunday but means that the Redskins have recovered seven of 22 opponents fumbles, a recovery rate of 31 percent. A typical defense recovers about 40 percent of the other teams’ fumbles and it is not unusual to see teams recover half.
While it would be tempting to wonder about the Redskins’ practice habits when it comes to recovering fumbles, this usually boils down to dumb luck, the bounce of the ball. Perhaps Perry Riley’s recovery of the muffed punt last Sunday is a sign that the odds will begin to even out and the Redskins will pounce on more than their share of balls bouncing on the ground.
When it comes to interceptions, the Redskins are tied for 26th in the NFL with six. They do seem to drop a lot of interceptions but defensive backs on most teams do the same thing (well, except for Carlos Rogers of the 49ers). As the old saying goes, if a guy can catch the ball, he’s not going to be made a cornerback; he’ll be a wide receiver.
The other factor in at work here is that teams just don’t attempt many passes against Washington. Opposing teams have thrown 375 times against the Redskins. Only seven teams have faced fewer pass attempts. Fewer pass attempts means fewer opportunities to get picks.
The overriding factor in takeaways, however, is the scoreboard. When a defense is playing with a lead, it can attack. The defensive front can go after the quarterback with abandon, the defensive backs can gamble more. That is how takeaways pile up.
The Redskins went from the end of their game against the Rams on Oct. 2 until the second quarter of their game against Dallas on Nov. 20, 21 quarters, without leading in a game. That makes it hard to play defense with the type of abandon that leads to a lot of turnovers.
Still, the Redskins could do better. The Chiefs, for example, have had 350 passes thrown against them, 25 fewer than have been attempted against the Redskins. Kansas City has 17 interceptions, more than twice the Redskins’ total. And while the Chiefs may not have had as experienced a stretch of playing without a lead as long the Redskins did, they are 5-7 so it’s safe to say that they have been playing from behind a lot, too.
So, regardless of the circumstances, the Redskins need to produce more takeaways by holding on to their opportunities for interceptions and pick up more loose balls that are rolling around on the ground.