ST. LOUIS (AP) An errant pass bounced off hands of the New York Jets’ Joe McKnight on the sideline, tantalizingly soaring just out of the reach of St. Louis Rams safety Quintin Mikell and an easy touchdown return.
In the opening series of last week’s loss, Mikell stripped Mark Sanchez, and the ball bounced right back into the quarterback’s hands.
Those are just two of the latest frustrations for St. Louis, which hasn’t forced a turnover the last five games – tied for the NFL’s worst since 1950. Given turnovers are such momentum changers, it should come as no surprise that the Rams (3-6-1) are 0-4-1 during that stretch.
“We’re stripping, the ball’s flying around, it’ll just happen,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “But I don’t think I’ve been in a stretch before that long.”
In the last 62 years, only the Rams, the 2011 Indianapolis Colts and 2006 Washington Redskins have gone five games without a takeaway. They’ll try to avoid setting a dubious record on Sunday at Arizona, which lost a fumble in Week 5 for the Rams’ last turnover.
If they’re tired of hearing about it, players realize it’s on them. Take the ball away and it’ll take the topic out of play.
“We’ve got to do something about it. You never get tired of preaching turnovers, that’s one of the key factors in wins and losses,” linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar said. “I never get tired of taking about it, and I hope the guys don’t get tired of it.
“We’re getting them out, we’re just not recovering them.”
After the first five games, the Rams had eight interceptions and a fumble recovery. They’ve had no takeaways since Week 5 when Robert Quinn forced a fumble that was recovered by fellow defensive end William Hayes in a 17-3 victory over the Cardinals, the team they’ll be playing this week at Arizona.
Cornerback Cortland Finnegan had three interceptions the first three games, and has none since. Of course, teams learned early to pick on rookie Janoris Jenkins, instead.
“If you try to do too much, you hurt the team,” Finnegan said. “Turnovers are something you want to overemphasize in practice, but you never want to get out of your element in a game.”
The Jets fumbled twice without losing it last week, and the 49ers recovered all four fumbles a week earlier. Meanwhile, the Rams’ turnovers were costly.
The Jets’ Bart Scott had a 38-yard fumble return to set up the go-ahead touchdown after Muhammad Wilkerson stripped Sam Bradford. Rookie Daryl Richardson’s lost fumble led to another touchdown that put New York up 27-7 midway through the fourth quarter.
“You win games when you turn it over,” Fisher said. “They strip-sack and they pick it up and run it 50 yards. We strip-sack and it falls on Sanchez’s lap.”
It’s not all just about the bounces, because sometimes there aren’t any. In Weeks 7 and 8, the Packers and Patriots had no fumbles.
“Part of it’s luck and part of it’s creating your own luck and part of it’s what we emphasize, and we’ve been emphasizing it a lot,” defensive end Chris Long said.
What doesn’t need to get emphasized, Long adds, is the streak itself.
“We can’t get caught up in thinking, `Oh, this has been the longest streak or `Man, it’s been this many weeks,” Long said. “Our opportunity is Sunday to get the ball out, so these past weeks are non-existent.”
There’s enough pressure Sunday, given the Cardinals forced six turnovers last week in a 4-point loss at Atlanta.
Middle linebacker James Laurinaitis is still disappointed that in the first meeting against Arizona, Kevin Kolb threw 50 passes with no interceptions. On Sunday, they’ll be trying to take it away from a team led by a rookie making his starting debut, Ryan Lindley.
“Turnovers really come into play, and we know firsthand that their defense is a ball-hawking defense,” Laurinaitis said.
Though they’re 0-4-1 during the turnover blackout, it could have been worse. They had just one turnover in a tie at San Francisco, one again while pressing the Packers in a 10-point loss and one in a 3-point loss at Miami that boiled down to special teams meltdowns.
“It’s not like we’re turning the ball over five or six times a game,” Fisher said. “We’re just not getting the takeaways to get the extra drives.”