CHARLOTTE NC - SEPTEMBER 26: Leon Hall #29 of the Cincinnati Bengals celebrates with teammates after making an interception against the Carolina Panthers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on September 26 2010 in Charlotte North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Quick quiz: what's this?
Here's a hint:
Got it yet? That's the Cincinnati Bengals' turnover ratio in each of the first four games. I put an asterisk by the number from the Cleveland game last Sunday because I believe it ought to be -2 as they turned the ball over on downs on the blocked field goal. Here's how the turnovers translated on the scoreboard; the number after the slash is the final margin of victory or defeat.
(7) / 14
+6 / 5
+7 / 13
(6 or 9) / 3
In the Bengals' two victories, turnovers either provided the margin of victory or put them up by two scores. In their two defeats, the turnovers either provided the margin of defeat or put the Bengals down by two scores.
I'm sure I'll be dunned for stating the obvious, but I thought it needed saying, since most of the conversation around the Bengals this week seems to revolve around anything and everything else. The few mentions of turnovers as the leading factor in last week's loss I've seen have been lost in an avalanche of agendas. Everyone seems to have an axe to grind, and whether it's Sideshow Bob Bratkowski or the offensive line or Carson Palmer or Chad Ochocinco or Marvin Lewis or Mike Brown or who/whatever, they've been using last week's loss and the club's overall 2-2 start to make the case for their cause.
And far be it from me to criticize axe-grinding. By all means, carry on. I have a closet full of the things myself. But it is possible to over-think things, and the correlation between turnovers and wins/losses -- an old, proven and, as a result, largely unmentioned fact of the NFL -- is to me a perfect example of this. If the Cincinnati Bengals don't turn over the ball in week 1, they've at least got a shot to tie it late. If they don't turn the ball over two (or by my count, three) times last Sunday, they're almost certainly 3-1 right now. Even with everything else -- coaches, players, scheme, ownership, everything -- remaining the same.
If the Bengals plan on winning against Tampa this Sunday, what they need to do above all else is hold on to the ball. It's obvious, but the fundamentals usually are.