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Takeaways are great, but Sean Payton doesn’t want them to dictate Broncos’ record

After starting 1-5 under coach Sean Payton last season, the Denver Broncos went on an impressive 5-0 run that was fueled by turnovers.

“I think the biggest thing that stood out was at that 1-5 benchmark — there were two things, really,” Payton said during his end-of-season press conference on Jan. 9. “We rapidly changed how we took the ball away, and then we began to protect the ball. Man, that was a deciding factor in a few games for us — the turnover ratio. When you look at the exact numbers, prior to that, they weren’t really good. I think that was a big reason behind our spark, if you will, of winning five games in a row — creating field position.” 

Turnovers, both protecting the ball and forcing takeaways, are crucial for any NFL team and they helped the Broncos go on a run in 2023. Going into the 2024 campaign, Payton wants Denver to reach a level of being able to overcome not winning the turnover battle on a week-to-week basis.

“[When] the season ended, we were a [winning] team when we won the turnover battle,” Payton said. “We were 8-1 when winning it, and I believe we were 0-8 when it was even, or we didn’t win it. That’s pretty typical of a team that’s right in the middle of the pack, if you will.

“The better teams will have one or two wins, even when they lose it [the turnover battle]. Then the teams way down at the bottom might lose even when they win it. If we won it, chances are we won the game, but if we were even, I don’t think we won a game where it was even. I think there were one or two examples where it was even, and we didn’t win.”

The Broncos ended the season tied for 12th with 26 takeaways. Denver led the league with 15 fumble recoveries, a stat that undoubtedly involves some luck. The ball won’t always bounce the Broncos’ way, and while takeaways are obviously a positive, Payton doesn’t want the team’s win-loss record to be dictated by fluky turnovers.

Denver needs to learn how to win when they lose the turnover battle. Otherwise, as Payton said, the Broncos will remain “right in the middle of the pack.” Payton’s expectations are higher than a middle of the pack finish in 2024.

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Story originally appeared on Broncos Wire