INDIANAPOLIS – Everyone involved recognizes the problem.
Turnovers. It’s being careless with the most important item in football, which is the football.
Through the first five games of the season, the Indianapolis Colts took care of the ball. They stood 3-2 in large part because they didn’t turn the ball over in victories at Houston and Baltimore and against the Tennessee Titans.
Here’s where we point out the Colts are 16-2 since 2020 when they’ve played turnover-free. And that takes into account their dizzying quarterback carousel.
That was then, and this is now.
Lately, they’ve littered the field with turnovers and, not surprisingly, take a two-game losing streak into Sunday’s meeting with the New Orleans Saints at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Four turnovers in a 37-20 loss at Jacksonville.
Four more in last Sunday’s 39-38 gut-punch by Cleveland.
“Shoot,’’ Shane Steichen said after losing to the Browns. “We talked about winning the turnover battle. We had four, which makes it tough to win any football game.
“That’s the biggest thing we got to get cleaned up.’’
Gardner Minshew II made his second straight start after Anthony Richardson suffered his season-ending shoulder injury in week 5 against the Titans. For a second straight week, he was a major impediment.
Against the Browns, he lost three fumbles on strip sacks and delivered an interception. Cleveland accepted the assistance and turned the first three into 17 points.
At Jacksonville, Minshew had three interceptions and lost another fumble on a sack. The Jaguars also capitalized with 17 points.
“That’s not something I want to be a part of us and something that can’t be a part of our game,’’ he said after the loss to the Browns.
But right now, it is part of Minshew and the Colts. And it doesn’t take a master’s degree in football analytics to understand they’re headed down a dark path if it continues.
History provides the evidence.
*Since the relocation in 1984, the Colts are 5-55 when they have at least four turnovers. Only three quarterbacks have overcome a four-turnover game and emerged with a win: Andrew Luck (twice in 2014), Peyton Manning (2000) and Don Majkowski (twice in 1994). Admit it, you had forgotten the Majik Man played for the Colts.
*Since 2020, teams across the league with at least four turnovers are 7-82. They’re 0-12 this season, have lost 32 straight and 45 of the last 46.
The conclusion: Don’t turn the friggin’ football over four times!
We asked Steichen if he had ever won a game when his offense suffered four turnovers.
“No,’’ he said. “I had one last year, lost. And obviously two this year, lost.
“Yeah, I don’t think I have. I’d have to go back and look.’’
We saved him the trouble.
In his five years as a head coach or offensive coordinator with the Colts, Eagles and Chargers, he’s 0-8: 0-2 with Indy, 0-3 with Philly, 0-3 with the Chargers.
His last three – the two with the Colts and Philly’s 40-34 loss to Dallas in week 16 last season – have been with Minshew as his starting quarterback. The Cowboys turned four Eagles’ turnovers, including two Minshew interceptions and one lost fumble, into 23 points, which negated Minshew’s 355 passing yards and two TDs.
Minshew’s four turnovers against the Browns – along with a few controversial officiating decisions – nullified the Colts’ best offensive outing of the season: 38 points and 456 yards against the NFL’s No. 1-ranked defense.
The offense ranks No. 10 in yards per game (361.1) and tied-No. 6 in scoring (25.4), and is the only one in the league to score at least 20 points in every game. But the careless last two weeks have left the Colts a minus-2 in the turnover battle and their 12 turnovers are tied for 5th-most in the league.
Most alarming? Opponents have turned the 12 takeaways into 44 points.
“Taking care of the ball,’’ Jonathan Taylor said as he diagnosed the offense. “When you don’t even set yourself up for success, you’re already starting from behind.’’
Like every team in the NFL, the Colts preach ball security and address it every day in practice. A daily drill in training camp had quarterbacks taking drops and moving around in the pocket while being poked and whacked with pads on the end of poles.
Steichen admitted quarterbacks face a balancing act when operating in a hectic passing pocket. Look for the chunk plays when they’re called and available, but always keep ball security as the No. 1 priority.
“We want our guys to make plays but at the same time, when you get in traffic – just an emphasis of we’ve got to have a clasped hand, wrist above the elbow and elbow locked when you’re going through that traffic,’’ he said. “That’s got to be the emphasis more than anything.
“When you’re around traffic, you’ve got to protect that thing.’’
Chunk plays require a quarterback to hold the football a tick longer. That allows the deeper route to develop, but also gives the pass rush – Myles Garrett, Josh Allen – an opportunity to close.
“Some things, I’m trying to do too much,’’ Minshew said. “Some things, we kind of put ourselves in tough positions.
“Just evaluating it one-by-one, focusing and trying to do better moving forward.’’
Noted coordinator Jim Bob Cooter: “We’re encouraged by a lot of the things that our guys have been doing that’s been showing up on game day. We know and they know that ball security is going to win and lose games a lot of times in this league.
“We will emphasize the heck out of that and continue to emphasize it. Our guys know and they emphasize it themselves. We just have to do a little bit better job protecting it.’’
Prior to the Jacksonville game, interceptions hadn’t been a major issue during Minshew’s career. In four seasons with the Jaguars and Eagles, he had 15 in 32 games and 24 starts.
Fumbles are a different matter.
Minshew now has fumbled 27 times in 39 games, including 25 with 15 lost in his 27 starts.
Limiting turnovers, Cooter said, is “a point of emphasis for Gardner. We know we have to protect the thing. We’ll make it a little stronger point of emphasis moving forward.
“It’s a balance of playing quarterback. Shoot, you don’t want the guy to go into a shell and now he’s never ever trying to create plays and find extra completions out there.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.