The Elephant in the Locker Room: If It’s All About Taking Care of the Ball… We’re in Trouble
By Greg Wright
After four playoff appearances in a row, everyone’s paying attention… yet even with all the scrutiny, it seems that there’s always some key issue that’s getting glossed over. It’s the elephant in the locker room, if you will, and gosh darn if I’ll let that ride. Join us weekly for a little closer look at our NFC West Champions.
Late in the 4th quarter. The Hawks have come back from 11 points down to tie, but the Vikings have the ball and are driving for a go-ahead score. On 3rd and 8 at the Seattle 35-yard line, Stave takes a shotgun snap and passes short left to Kyle Carter, who turns upfield a couple yards shy of the first down. He’s met by a crowd of Seahawks; Marcus Burley punches the ball out, like we’ve seen Chancellor, Browner, Maxwell, and Lane do so many times over the last few years, and Reed recovers the ball and returns it to near midfield.
Just like old times, eh?
Well, yes. And that’s part of the problem. It is like old times, but not so much like current times.
The other part of the problem, in this case, was that the officials overturned the fumble. Why? Because Carter’s elbow was down before the ball popped loose. Take a slo-mo look once more:
But I’m certainly not going to complain about one of the lone defensive highlights of the preseason. We didn’t get the call. So what?
What I ***am*** going to complain about–and for good cause, as we shall see–is that there have been so precious few of these moments of late.
I’m sure I’m not the only one to psychically register a general lack of defensive big plays from the Hawks as I’ve been watching games. And it’s not just an uneasy feeling. It’s reality.
Since the dawn of the Carroll era, our home team has developed a reputation for generating turnovers, both fumbles and interceptions, and dominating the Holy Grail of team stats, the Turnover Ratio.
(Actually, the label “Turnover Ratio” is a complete misnomer since the statistic in question is not a ratio at all, but a margin. For example, in 2013 the Seahawks led the league in 2013 with a Turnover Ratio of 20–meaning that the Hawks took the ball away 20 more times during the season than they gave it away. This data point is, properly speaking, the Turnover Margin. The turnover ratio for the Hawks that season would have been 39:19, or 2.05, meaning that they took the ball away just over twice as often as they gave it away. A very desirable stat, and an actual ratio at that.)
No matter how you cut it, a team that excels both at taking care of their own ball and taking the ball away from the other team is going to win more games. Pure and simple. Hence Carroll’s insistence on fundamentals, technique, and “Turnover Thursday.”
But do the Seahawks still do Turnover Thursday? I’ve seen no mention of it since the Carolina game to end last season. And with the way the Hawks have played the last two weeks, I’m beginning to think they might want to start thinking about Turnover Tuesday, Wednesday, ***and*** Thursday.
Because so far this preseason, the team Turnover Margin is -1.
The Hawks have had one interception and zero fumble recoveries against one interception each by Wilson and Boykin.
Now, is this such a big deal? After all, it’s preseason, right?
Well, let’s look at the data. Here’s a summary of how the Hawks have done with turnovers in preseason games over the last five years compared to how that has translated into the regular season… and into playoffs.
The fact is, how you practice is how you play. The better the Seahawks have been with turnovers in the preseason, the better they’ve been with them in the regular season–and the farther they’ve gone in the playoffs.
I know that Richard Sherman and company were earnest in their assertions in the early going last season that turnovers would start coming, and that they would start coming in bunches. But they didn’t. And I’m disturbed that the lack of defensive turnovers is becoming not just an aberration but a trend.
Could this develop into a key factor in the Seahawks having only the second non-playoff season in Carroll’s tenure?
I sure hope not. But if numbers are a predictor, well, that would be my prediction.
Someone sure better light a fire under Sherman, Chancellor, Thomas, Wagner, Bennett and Wright. Carroll teams do not thrive without interceptions and forced fumble recoveries.
Where have all the fumbles gone, short time passing?
And all those interceptions, short years ago?
Where have all the fumbles gone?
The margin is narrowing every year.
Oh, when will those picks return?
When will those picks return?