There’s a saying, “Defense wins championships.” This might be true, but a more accurate saying should be, “Lots of takeaways, and few turnovers, wins championships.”
Sure, it’s not nearly as succinct and motivating as “Defense wins championships,” but it is certainly accurate. This isn’t brain surgery here. In 45 Super Bowls, there have only been three teams that managed to win the game after turning the ball over more than taking it away (a negative turnover margin).
The Colts managed to win Super Bowl V in 1971 with a -3 turnover margin. They threw three interceptions and lost four fumbles, while the Cowboys managed to hold themselves to throwing three interceptions and one lost fumble. The final score was 16-13. In 1980, the Steelers won Super Bowl XIV with a -2 turnover margin beating the Rams 31-19, while in 2006 the Steelers once again won with a -1 turnover margin in Super Bowl XL beating the Seahawks 21-10.
And that’s the complete history of Super Bowl winning teams who had a negative turnover margin. Only 7% of winners have had a negative turnover margin, while 20% have had an even margin, and 73% have had a positive turnover margin.
There have been more Super Bowl Champions with a +3 turnover margin (11) than any other type of margin. And only two teams have managed to have a +5 or better margin — the Cowboys (+7) in Super Bowl XXVII against the Bills, and the Ravens (+5) in Super Bowl XXXV against the Giants.
Of course this goes without saying, but whoever takes the ball away more times tonight than gives it away will be the next Super Bowl Champion. At least that’s what history has proven 73% of the time.
Check out our charts below — which have slightly the same stats in three different types of graphs!
Click each chart to open larger version