October 28, three days before Halloween, 2018. That was the last time the Seattle Seahawks forced a turnover.
Leading the Detroit Lions 28-14 with 3:11 remaining, Justin Coleman came original with a game-sealing interception of Matthew Stafford, ending the Lions hopes for a comeback and giving Seattle a must-have victory. That was the most recent Seahawks turnover forced, and they have gone 1-2 in the three games since.
Headed into another playoff-type atmosphere in Carolina, Seattle will most likely need to win the turnover battle of they want to win the game.
From Weeks 1-8, the Seahawks forced 16 turnovers, tied for third-most in the NFL. Only the Cleveland Browns and Chicago Bears had more takeaways per game than Seattle up to that point. The story since has been much different; since Week 9, only the Seahawks and Bucs have played three games and forced zero turnovers. In that time, Seattle has lost close games to the LA Chargers and Rams, plus a last-minute victory over the Green Bay Packers. In all three games, the Seahawks have also coughed it up one time each. If they don’t protect the ball against the Panthers on Sunday, it’s going to be hard for Seattle to get the win they need.
And playing in Carolina makes it that much more difficult.
The Panthers, 6-4, are +10 in the turnover differential at home compared to -5 on the road. The Seahawks have seven turnovers and 11 takeaways on the road, compared to two turnovers and five takeaways at home. That means that Seattle is fairly consistently winning the turnover battle, but they’ll need to be even more fortunate this Sunday than usual if they want to increase their odds of getting a victory that puts them in wild card position.
A win over Carolina upgrades the Seahawks to a playoff team after 12 weeks, whereas a loss puts a wider gap between them and the postseason. If Seattle does get the victory, then they get to head into December at 6-5 with four of their final five games at home.
Turnovers are arguably the most important stat in football. The Chicago Bears are 3-0 in their last three games with an NFL-best 10 takeaways. The New Orleans Saints and New York Giants are 2-0 in the last three weeks and each have six takeaways. Only Washington stands out, going 1-2 with eight takeaways in that time, but that includes a +4 turnover game that they won and just a +1 in their two losses. None of the seven teams with 0 takeaways since Week 9 has a winning record.
One of the issues clearly lies in the loss of Earl Thomas, whose three interceptions still ranks first on the team with just six games left to play; Thomas has missed more than half of the season. More sacks would help, but two players — Frank Clark and Jarran Reed — have combined to record 15.5 of the teams total 28 sacks. Nobody else on the team has more than two.
The Carolina Panthers are likely to win the turnover battle on Sunday, but the games are played to find out if today’s the day that the unlikely makes an appearance.