FOXBORO — As we learned Sunday night, losing the turnover battle is about the only thing that can really stop the Patriots from a march toward the Super Bowl .
And despite losing two fumbles and two interceptions, the Patriots nearly pulled one out of the hat, overcoming a 28-point deficit, only to lose 41-34.
The Patriots entered the game with an NFL-best +24 turnover ratio. They won the turnover battle in 21 straight games.
But in a stunning turnaround, Tom Brady  threw a pair of interceptions and Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen  lost fumbles. The Patriots were lucky in the first half when two turnovers led to zero points but not as lucky in the second half when the Niners scored on the next play after each turnover.
While Ridley has come under scrutiny for his two fumbles (one nullified when he was down by contact), Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels  confirmed the urgency Tuesday to reinforce the issue of ball security in the final two weeks of the season.
“I think we want all of the skill players to protect the football. We work at it and try to emphasize that and generally I think we’ve done a decent job of it during the course of the season. There are certain times when the defense either gets it out or maybe we don’t necessarily possess the type of ball security that we need on a certain play or in a certain game,” McDaniels said. “I think it’s more that if we’re being careless and the carelessness is repetitive and the ball is obviously not protected, we need to address that as a group; we need to address that and make sure that we try to fix it so that we don’t hurt our team.
“But in terms of a particular game or a specific, ‘How many times does the ball need to be away from a player’s body’ or ‘how many throws does the quarterback make that the defense touches before you get him out of the game,’ I’ve never really had a specific chart or philosophy on that. I think more or less you’ve got to try to make sure that each player who touches it is securing it and taking care of it and if you feel like there is too big of a risk, then certainly you need to address it either that day or in the week of practice.”
Here is the rest of Tuesday’s conference call with McDaniels:
Q: Although you were with Denver when Sebastian Vollmer  was drafted, did it surprise you that the Patriots drafted someone that high who had not been to the Combine? Looking back on the pick, does it seem like the Patriots saw a diamond in the rough?
JM: Well, I don’t think anything in terms of the draft process and the thorough process that we go through here really surprises me at this point. I know that they do so much work on each player that’s eligible to try to make sure that if there is any advantage we can gain through the pre-draft process ‘ the Combine, pre-draft workouts or college free agency after the draft ‘ that it’s taken care of and really done as well as anything else we do here. I was certainly aware of the player. I know we had evaluated him as well and they did their research, they did their homework and they selected a player that certainly had a tremendous amount of upside and talent. Sebastian really possesses a lot of the qualities you look for in a starting tackle and he’s only continued to progress and get better each year. He’s a hard worker and a guy that does a lot of things to prepare himself physically and mentally each week for the games. [He’s] got a great work ethic, a great demeanor and he’s really a strong asset to our offense.
Q: Can you talk about Sebastian Vollmer’s evolution and development over the past year or two?
JM: Well, I’ve only really seen him up close and personnel for one year, getting here last January and having an opportunity to really kind of get to know him and watch him throughout the course of this year. Certainly he was rehabbing a little bit in the spring and the offseason into training camp, but [I’m] really just impressed with his approach. He’s battled some things to get back and get out on the field. He’s got a good playing style for an offensive lineman: he’s physical, he really does a nice job in pass protection and maintaining the width of the pocket. He certainly plays against a lot of good rushers in this league and has done a nice job. We’ve asked him to learn and potentially play multiple positions, whether he has to swing over to the other side, but as a potential backup there, he has been more than willing and capable of doing that at times as well. He’s a guy that’s getting better and hopefully his best football is still in front of him. Like I said, when he’s out there and he’s playing on the right side, it really provides a strong presence for us over there in the running game and in pass protection.
Q: What are your thoughts on Tom Brady’s ability to spearhead the initial comeback against the 49ers ?
JM: I think that our team as a whole ‘ and again you never want to be in that position and we did a lot of things to put ourselves in that position ‘ had a great mindset, even when we were in that unenviable position of trying to get back into the game when it was 31-3. I thought that the fight and the demeanor that we had, both on the sideline and on the field, is what enabled us to continue to fight and play. You never know what’s going to happen in this league and as long as you continue to play hard and fight and try to do your job out there on the field, then good things can happen for you. All in all it certainly wasn’t close to good enough and we have a lot higher standard than what we were able to do offensively Sunday night and a lot of credit goes to San Francisco in what they were able to do on defense to force us to be in that position. Hopefully we can start a lot faster going forward.
Q: Do you have a coaching philosophy when it comes to working with a player who is struggling with ball security?
Q: What type of defensive scheme are the Jaguars running and what are some of the challenges that they present on defense?
JM: Well, the one thing that you see from their group is that they’re a really sound unit. They’re very specific with their schemes. They don’t overdo it, but when they use a specific scheme in each game that’s really specific to that game, it usually has a great purpose. They’re capable of really trying to take away certain parts of your game if they really play to that. I think they’ve done a decent job of trying to not give up big plays. I mean, that’s really one of the things that stands out to me. It’s very rare that you see people behind the defense and they force you to try to drive the ball a length of time and usually a number of plays before you have an opportunity to score the ball. So being consistent on our end and making sure that we don’t encounter any negative plays is going to be important for us because they do a great job of keeping the ball in front of them. I think they’re a pretty good tackling unit. They’re physical up front. They’ve added [Jason] Babin who is certainly a good pass rusher. They have some guys that have been disruptive. [Tyson] Alualu, [who] I’ve coached against before, is real physical inside and does a good job of getting to the quarterback and doing some disruptive things inside. [Jeremy] Mincey has created some production for them. So it’s not a heavy or high blitz percentage team in terms of what they do, but again it’s very sound what they do; there are not a lot of wide open, uncovered receivers. They make you work for the yards that you get and the production that you ultimately end up with at the end of the game. So this is going to be a good test for us. We’re going to have to go down there and execute a number of plays in a row to string together good drives to have an opportunity to get into the red zone on a number of possessions hopefully. We’re going to have to have a good week of practice. [We] certainly have to start this week with a great week of practice. That’s really what it’s going to come down to and we need to go down there and be ready to start fast on Sunday.
Q: When you evaluate a game, do you look at the game as a whole or can you break it up into different portions of the game? Do you look at it as one big picture or do you every take the time to break it down into multiple parts?
JM: I think in each game, you can probably break it down and look at it and say, ‘We played better here; we didn’t play as well there,’ but I think the ultimate reflection is on the result and the outcome of the work that you put in during the course of the week and what it ultimately ended up with on Sunday. That’s really every week. We go in and we focus on doing a lot of things well because that’s necessary to win. We’ve got to be able to be balanced, take care of the football, throw it, run it, use play-action, score in the red zone, convert on third down, convert on our short-yardage opportunities, protect the football and do what we need to do in two-minute and four-minute if those situations come up. Ultimately at the end of the game, it’s what the score is and how effective you were offensively in those situations and with your game plan and you’ll know basically how you did. When you win and you play well, certainly you feel a lot better than when you go out and you don’t really start very well and don’t start as fast as you’d like to and play from behind for almost the entire game. That’s difficult to feel good about and I think that our task is certainly to get back on track with our own stuff and take care of and focus on the things that we need to focus on and get better at as a football team, offensively. And there are a lot of those after Sunday night.