Being minus in turnover margin is a recipe for defeat

Self-inflicted wounds.

Every coach on every football team uses that term at some point, and what he's referring to is handing presents to the opposition.

Turnovers.

There were 40 of them (counting a blocked punt at Arizona) in Sunday's 13 games. The ugliest display of butterfingers, sloppiness or bad luck came in Philadelphia, where two of the better teams in the early going, Minnesota and Philadelphia, combined for eight turnovers . Yep, the previously unbeaten Vikings, who had one giveaway all season, committed four. The Eagles had lost the ball twice in five games, and they also had four.

Good defense? At times. More often in this one, it was bad offense.

''I thought we played embarrassing really is the word, in at least two of the phases,'' Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said after a 21-10 defeat. ''We turned the ball over offensively, we didn't block people, we dropped balls, we got the quarterback hit. We got third-and-2 inches and we can't convert; on third down or fourth down. We had three shots in the red zone in the first half, we throw an interception. We gave up a 98-yard kickoff return. We fumbled a punt.

''So if you're going to do those things, you have no chance to win.''

Even though the Eagles gave the Vikings plenty of opportunities by losing two fumbles and throwing two interceptions. And their rookie quarterback knew enough to term that a no-no.

''You're going to make mistakes, those things are going to happen,'' Carson Wentz said. ''We have to clean some things up. I think we had four turnovers today. That's never good. You usually don't win too many games when you do that, but our defense played unbelievable and kept us in the ballgame.''

That it did - helped greatly by some ineptitude by Minnesota's offense.

Even worse was what the Rams brought to London. English fans are getting more sophisticated about the American brand of football, so they should have recognized the crudity Case Keenum and the Rams showed.

Yes, the Giants finally found a pass rush, something they spent a whole lot of money for. That pressure forced some terrible blocking, leading to most of New York's four interceptions - two each by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Landon Collins , who ran one back for a touchdown.

The Giants won 17-10, and L.A.'s self-inflicted wounds were the difference.

''It's a momentum changer,'' Collins said of pickoffs. ''When you get an interception, it takes a lot out of the defense on the other side of the field, and takes a lot out of that offense because that's where the trust issues come in.''

Fans can trust that when the weather gets ugly, as it will deeper into the season, turnovers could become even more common. It's nearly always a guarantee that teams leading the turnover differential (it's not a ratio if it involves plus and minus, broadcast folks) at the end of the schedule are also in the playoffs, often in the Super Bowl.

Remember that this was a relatively mild Sunday in October on which there were three games played indoors, too. Folks who like to see gifts and giveaways can look to, appropriately, the day before Christmas, with contests at Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, Green Bay, and New England. Plus a night game two days earlier in Philadelphia, and late-afternoon or night contests in Pittsburgh and Kansas City on Christmas itself.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh certainly isn't thinking that far ahead. His team has dropped four straight, and the Ravens had three giveaways Sunday. They head into their bye with turnovers on their mind.

''The focus is going to be learning how to play winning football, it's as simple as that,'' Harbaugh said. ''All the things that go into that - playing with discipline, intelligence, fundamentally sound football, and getting better at the things we need to get better at.''

It starts with not being charitable.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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