We may be in the heart of the analytics revolution in football, but one non-advanced statistic that will always reign supreme is turnovers, more specifically turnover margin.
It doesn't matter if you're talking to Bill Belichick or Rich Kotite; most football coaches, players, and personnel will tell you if a team loses the turnover battle, they'll likely lose the game as well.
Obviously, it's not 100% cut and dry. Since 1990 when the playoff expanded to 12 teams (6 in each conference) teams with a turnover margin of -1 are 34-70. So about 1/3 of the time (32.69% to be exact) you can turn the ball over exactly once more than your opponent and still win.
Heres's two completely random examples of such; yesterday's NFC Championship Game saw the Buccaneers win with a turnover margin of -1 and in Super Bowl XLIX the Patriots turned the ball over twice (two Tom Brady interceptions) compared to the Seahawks lone turnover and still won the game 28-24.
To get to that Super Bowl, the Seahawks had to beat the Green Bay Packers in the 2014 NFC Championship. I bring up that game, because the Seahawks turned the ball over a whopping five (5) times compared to the Packers two (2) in the 2014 NFC Title Game; basic math tells you that's a turnover margin of -3 for the 2014 NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks.
Conversely, that means the Packers turnover margin was +3, yet they still managed to lose the game 28-22 in OT. Since 1990, there have been 53 instances where a football team's turnover margin was exactly +3 and those teams went 48-5 (two teams lost in regulation by a point and the other team lost in overtime). Over that same time period, 95 teams had a turnover margin of at least +3; those teams went 90-5; meaning teams with a turnover margin of +4 or better in the playoffs are 42-0.
Prior to yesterday, I think most Packer fans would say that the 2014 NFCCG was the most frustrating/devastating/pick your favorite non-positive adjective loss of the Aaron Rodgers era. (Maybe 2011 against the Giants? But they just straight up got their ass kicked) Now, I'd have to imagine there's serious competition with 2020 for that title.
I seriously hate to do this to my massive following of Packers fans, but there's an eerie parallel between those two losses and not just that the Packers won the turnover margin in both games.
I'll fully admit this stat is a little cherry-picked, but doesn't make the L any easier to swallow.
That's right! The Green Bay Packers are the only team in the last 35 years to have a player record multiple interceptions in a Conference Championship Game and lose. And it's happened to them twice! How is that even possible? It's not even that cherry picked; 12 players have record at least two interceptions in a Conference Championship Game the last 35 years.
It's just amazing to me to see the same franchise find a way to lose a game that 10 other teams managed to win by at least 10 points,,,,,,twice.
I don't know what's worse between Morgan Burnett falling on the ball in the 2014 NFCCG when he had room to roam in a game the Packers were leading by 12 points with just over 5:00 remaining...
...or the Packers forcing Tom Brady interceptions on three straight drives (an occurrence I cannot ever remember happening in the hundreds of Patriot games I watched) and only having six points to show for it?
I just genuinely feel bad for Packers fans, but had to bring this stat to the world's attention. In a way, I know exactly how they feel. I was lucky enough to watch Tom Brady quarterback my favorite football team from the time I was in 4th grade until I was 28 years old. During that time period he helped the Patriots win three Super Bowls in four years, then went 10 years without another championship. During that down time it wasn't like the Patriots weren't competitive. Au contraire; they averaged 12.22 wins a season from 2005-2013. Yet they were never able to hoist the Lombardi. I know I wasn't alone in my worries that Tom Brady would never lead the Patriots to another championship and that it felt like a lot of underachieving with Super Bowl caliber teams.
Since winning the Super Bowl in 2010, the Packers have averaged 10.5 wins per season, Aaron Rodgers will have won 3 MVPs and they've yet to make it back to the Super Bowl; going 0-4 in NFC Championship Games. At least Packer fans can take solace knowing Brady lead the Patriots to three more Super Bowl championships after his 10 year drought. Who's to say A-a-ron can't?
Shoutout to Pro Football Reference and Stathead for the majority of those numbers AND me for investing in myself again.