HOUSTON (CBS HOUSTON) — There is no “wasting” turnovers on the preseason, and the Texans have taken that to heart during a 3-0 exhibition run.
The Houston defense was again a ballhawking bunch in Sunday’s 34-24 win over the Arizona Cardinals, taking the ball away five times.
Linebacker John Simon highlighted the turnover party by deflecting Carson Palmer’s screen pass and taking it 59 yards himself to the end zone for a pick-six in the second quarter.
“You saw that open-field speed from him,” teammate Kareem Jackson said with a grin.
Overall, the Texans picked off Palmer and Matt Barkley a combined four times and added a fumble recovery after Brennan Scarlett forced a fumble deep in Arizona territory.
“People ask me, Hey are you worried you’re getting too many in the preseason? Does that bode well?” Texans head coach Bill O’Brien said. “That’s what you’re trying to coach. You want them to take the ball away.”
Added defensive end Whitney Mercilus: “You work on it in practice so it shows up in games, and when it shows up in preseason, it’s going to show up in the regular season. That’s what we’re hopeful for.”
It’s been a difference maker this preseason. Simon also took a fumble to the house against the 49ers, and the Texans have forced a total of 10 turnovers through three preseason games.
Houston was in the middle of the pack when it came to turnovers last season. In 2015, Houston posted a +5 turnover differential (T-14 in NFL) and took the ball away 25 times in 16 games (T-12).
Carolina led the league with 39 total takeaways en route to a Super Bowl berth, a tangible example of turnovers’ importance in wins and losses.
“It’s going to be important to win the turnover battle and get the ball back for our explosive offense,” linebacker Brian Cushing said.
Going back to Bill O’Brien’s point, Jackson said the emphasis on turnovers won’t just pay off against the Cardinals.
It could ultimately turn the tide of a crucial regular-season game.
“It’s all about building habits,” Jackson said. “For all 11 guys to go out there and get the ball out, pick it off — we preach that every day. We work on those things every day, so for it to translate to games is important to what we want to accomplish this year.”