I had a high school football coach who used to preach to us how important holding on to the ball was for a team. He used to tell us, “Turnovers will kill ‘ya every time!”
I realized he was really trying to explain the importance of why you didn’t want to turn the ball over. Turnovers can create a psychological blow to the player or team who lost the ball. They not only give the other guy a shot at scoring, but they can swing the momentum.
When the Browns played the Bengals Sunday, that’s exactly what happened.
The Browns came out strong in the first quarter and appeared to be dominating the game. The offense moved the ball pretty well on their second drive, but stalled at the Cincinnati 1. They came away with a field goal. A Joe Haden interception at the Cincinnati 17 set up another score, but again the offense couldn’t punch it in and settled for a field goal.
But the real story in the first quarter was the Browns defense, which forced the Bengals to punt three times, and intercepted Dalton twice. The first setting up the just mentioned field goal, and the second Haden returned for 29 yards and a touchdown.
The score was 13-0 Browns. The Defense was playing great. The offense was passable, but at this point in the game, you believed that they would improve. The turnovers by Haden appeared to give the Browns the momentum.
Then Cincinnati took it back.
Near the end of the first quarter, James Harrison intercepted Jason Campbell and bulled his way to the goal line but was called back for a block in the back. That interception it set up a 25-yard pass from Dalton to Jermaine Gresham for a touchdown at the beginning of the second.
Seven points scored because of a turnover. Score: 13-7 Bengals.
On their next drive, Cincinnati scored again on a six-yard pass to Mohamed Sanu, making the score 13-14 Bengals.
Later in the quarter, Spencer Lanning’s punt was blocked and recovered by Tony Dye. He ran 24 yards for a touchdown.
Fourteen points scored because of turnovers. Score: 13-21 Bengals.
Still in the second quarter, Cleveland had the ball on its own 17. Campbell threw a short pass to Chris Ogbonnaya who then fumbled. Vontaze Burfict picked up the ball and sprinted 13 yards for a score.
Twenty-one points scored because of turnovers. Score: 13-28 Bengals.
Just before half-time, Mike Nugent kicked a 41-yard field goal to make the score 13-31 Bengals. It had been an impressive amount of scoring in just one quarter, and it was a Bengals franchise record.
The Bengals would go on to score another 20 points in the second half, owning the momentum for the rest of the day. What created that momentum change was the 21 points scored in the second quarter from turnovers. It created a psychological pounding that swung things in the Bengals’ favor, and the Browns could not overcome it. Do you remember the look on the faces of Browns’ players?
If the Browns had controlled the ball better, they would have been in the game. The defense limited the Bengals, holding them to 224 total yards. Compare that to the 330 yards for the Browns. In fact, Cleveland out-performed Cincinnati in almost every major stat category, or was nearly even with the Bengals, except for Red Zone Conversions, Turnovers and Defensive or Special Teams TDs.
Without the touchdowns from turnovers, the score would have been 20-20, and the Browns would not have suffered from the momentum shift. Could it have been a different outcome?
Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers.