What did Lovie Smith do in 2021 to help the Texans rank 8th in the NFL in interceptions?
The 2021/2022 Houston Texans' defense marginally improved as veteran defensive coordinator (DC) Lovie Smith took over the reins from rookie DC Anthony Weaver. Playing a simple, fast and “bend but don’t break” style of defense, Smith’s unit was heavily dependent on forcing turnovers to slow down offenses.
Forcing turnovers has an immense impact on the outcome of a game. A 2013 study concluded that teams with more interceptions than their opponent won the game 80% of the time and teams that forced and recovered more fumbles than their opponents won the game 70% of the time.
For a Texans unit that is still lacking in elite talent, they may continue to live or die by the amount of takeaways they generate. This commences the beginning of a three-part series intending to discover what exactly Smith has done to improve the units’ takeaways and determine if they are sustainable going forward.
The past Texans’ season showed an improvement in points allowed per game (29.0 in 2020 to 26.6 in 2021), yards allowed per game (416.8 in 2020 to 384.4 in 2021) and most impressively, total takeaways (9 in 2020 to 25 in 2021).
Smith’s Super Bowl winning reputation comes with many defensive principles which he hangs his hat on - none more famous than his desire for taking the ball away from opposing offenses. After finishing dead last in the NFL in takeaways in 2020, Smith’s unit skyrocketed to 12th, with 18 interceptions and 8 fumble recoveries.
This takeaway statistic, per ESPN, Pro Football Reference and every other statistical database, does not even consider takeaways forced via 4th down stops. The Texans forced nine turnovers on downs and allowed a conversion rate of 57.9%, decent enough for 20th in the league.
This three-pronged view on takeaways - interceptions, fumbles and turnovers on downs - offers a multitude of possibilities to learn about what exactly Smith has his players doing to generate this game-altering statistic. With such an overflow of information to examine, this article will focus solely on interceptions, to ensure the proper level of depth is provided to readers.