The Houston Texans had the worst turnover margin in the NFL when they went 2-14 last season.
Two games into this year, and Houston is tied for second-best in the league in that category at plus-five. The Texans forced four turnovers in Sunday's 30-14 win at Oakland, using a couple of big plays by the secondary to improve to 2-0 after dropping their last 14 games in 2013.
"That's something that we ... drive on, even in practice," free safety Kendrick Lewis said. "It showed up in the game. Guys going after the ball, no matter if it's a running back breaking through, if it's a receiver catching the ball and turning up. We're stripping at the ball, trying to cause turnovers any way we can."
Lewis has been a nice addition to Houston's defense, starting both games at free safety. He spent his first four years in the NFL in Kansas City, where he started 15 games last season and finished with 56 tackles and an interception.
Houston grabbed two interceptions and recovered two fumbles against the Raiders. One play in that game illustrated the mindset that Lewis described.
Oakland's James Jones grabbed a 26-yard pass and Lewis stripped the ball. Jones picked it up and ran for 15 yards before Johnathan Joseph stripped it again, and this time D.J. Swearinger recovered for the Texans.
"I think it can get contagious," fifth-year cornerback Kareem Jackson said. "One guy goes out and makes a play and the next guy wants to go out and make one. For us as a defense it becomes contagious and I think that's a great thing for us."
Jackson, who had a career-long 65-yard interception return on Sunday, said after their inability to force turnovers a year ago, they made a conscious effort to change things in 2014.
"Last year we always talked about it and we always practiced it, we just never went out and did it," he said. "This year I think everybody has that: 'Let's go out and make a play' mentality."
The Texans converted the turnovers into 10 points and improved to 8-0 in franchise history when they are plus-four in turnover margin.
"There's a little bit of luck involved sometimes in it, but I think overall it's a very aggressive game plan and aggressive defense," coach Bill O'Brien said. "Guys are trying to make plays on the ball."
While the secondary forced the bulk of the turnovers on Sunday, the group noted that Houston's defensive front, led by defensive end J.J. Watt, contributed to its success. Lewis pointed out that pressure on the quarterback makes it easier for the defensive backs to make plays.
Veteran left tackle Duane Brown raved about how much the defense's ability to force turnovers has helped the offense so far this season.
"It's huge," Brown said. "When they force a turnover we just want to get down there and score to reward them for what they've done."
Of course, the offense also has contributed to the turnaround in turnover margin, having lost the ball just one time this season. A large part of Houston's undoing last season was Matt Schaub throwing nine interceptions in the first six games before being benched.
"(Games) come down to third-down conversions, they come down to red area percentage and then obviously, probably most importantly, they come down to turnovers," O'Brien said. "So, if you're the team that doesn't turn it over and the other team does turn it over, then you've got a heck of a shot to win and our team is doing a pretty good job of that right now."
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