Ball security critical for Cardinals against turnover-hungry Bears

Dec 20, 2023, 5:20 PM

Kyler Murray hands off to James Conner...

Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals hands off the ball to James Conner #6 against the Atlanta Falcons during the first quarter at State Farm Stadium on November 12, 2023 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Mike Christy/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mike Christy/Getty Images)

TEMPE — One of the Arizona Cardinals’ biggest negatives in their 45-29 loss to the San Francisco 49ers was the lack of ball security throughout the tilt.

Sporting two interceptions and five fumbles (though all were recovered by Arizona) on the stat sheet is not going to win you many football games regardless of where you sit in the standings.

Head coach Jonathan Gannon is well aware of that, especially with a Chicago Bears team that’s sixth in the league in takeaways this season with 23.

And did I mention there’s a good chance weather is a factor come Sunday?

“I don’t know if I can put much more emphasis on ball security,” Gannon said Wednesday. “Knowing that this team, when they win the takeaway battle, I think they’re 4-0 and when they lose the takeaway battle, I think they’re one and something. Certain teams can overcome it, but that’s a winning stat for a reason. We lost it 2-0 last game and you lose the game.

“We’ve overcome it at times, but our wins were typically in the positive with that, so a huge emphasis and knowing that this team takes it away. That’s how they win games. They steal possessions and they stop possessions by taking it away. Those are big plays, momentum plays in a game that can be a turning point in a game, which we’ve got to do a really good job of.”

As Gannon mentioned, the Bears are a clean 4-0 when they win the turnover battle. They’re 1-3 when it’s a split and are 0-6 when they’re on the losing end.

For comparison, the majority of The Cardinals’ victories this season came when it had more takeaways than the other side. They’re 0-1 when it’s even and 1-5 when on the losing end.

“If a ball is on the ground, I am not happy,” Gannon said. “Why is the ball on the ground? What do we have to do to correct it? Are we coaching it the right way? Do the players understand what we’re coaching and the details of that? Practice is huge with that.

“That has to be 100% clean all the time. You practice how you play, so we’re constantly on those details and we’ve done a pretty good job of it, but it can always be better in my mind.”

Having a tighter handle in Chicago could be the difference for the Cardinals on Sunday.

While the Bears are near the top of the league in takeaways, they’re also one of the worst teams in the NFL when it comes to giveaways.

Despite their 23 turnovers, Chicago is -1 in the turnover differential department thanks to 14 interceptions and 10 fumbles in 2023. Arizona meanwhile is -2 at a lower volume of 15-17.

The Bears are also one of the worst team in the league in sacks, which should provide quarterback Kyler Murray time to dissect the defense and find open receivers and running lanes.

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