The Seattle Seahawks 2017 season will not be remembered fondly by many fans, but much of that has to do with relativity: the Seahawks were 9-7, their worst record since 2011, and they allowed 332 points, their most 2010. But relative to other teams, 9-7 is fairly good. It’s not bad. Seattle has been shockingly adept at not finishing below .500 in their franchise’s history (17 of 42 years below .500) and they were 13th in points allowed last season, but it simply wasn’t the type of Seahawks team we became accustomed to under Pete Carroll.
However, there were still some things to admire. In fact, this was still a Seattle team that was 8-4 after 12 games, including a win over the future-champion Philadelphia Eagles. A convincing win.
That game in particular featured two takeaways by the Seahawks: an interception of Carson Wentz and two fumbles forced on him, one of which was recovered by the defense. Seattle finished ninth in turnovers forced, but that doesn’t really underline how consistent they were in forcing turnovers, an important clarification for any team’s full season results.
Winning the turnover battle in any game is one of the most important factors in the result of said contest. Per FootballPerspective, teams that won the turnover battle in 2016 won 78% of the time. If you protect the football, that means that even one takeaway could push you to a win in 3 out of 4 games, so sometimes it’s even better to say that you had six turnovers in four games (2-1-1-2) as opposed to six turnovers in four games (5-0-0-1). Maybe not always, but consistency is appreciated.
The Seahawks were perhaps the most consistent teams in regards to takeaways in 2017 despite a lower-than-expected overall finish for the defense in points allowed, yards allowed, and DVOA.
Seattle had 15 games with at least one turnover in 2017, the most of any team in the NFL. The only teams with 14 games were the Jacksonville Jaguars, Washington, and the Eagles. One of those teams won the Super Bowl. One made the AFC Championship game and had the best defense in the NFL. The other team was Washington.
The only time the Seahawks didn’t force a turnover was the 33-27 loss to the Tennessee Titans in Week 3. That difficult game featured no turnovers by either team and one lucky break could have turned the tide in Seattle’s favor; a 10-6 Seahawks team would surely feel different than a 9-7 one.
It may not be adequate compensation for the fact that Seattle fell below expectations last season but what it does do is serve as a reminder that the Seahawks were not at all bad and that the defense, while it suffered bigger leaks than it had in the previous five years (five instances of allowing 30+) was actually still quite dominant at times and consistent at forcing turnovers.
Seattle may have lost some key players on defense, but 10 of their 14 interceptions were created by players still on the team (Shaquill Griffin, Earl Thomas, Justin Coleman, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Byron Maxwell, and Nazair Jones), as well as nine of the 11 forced fumbles (Thomas, Maxwell, Frank Clark, Marcus Smith, Kam Chancellor, Jarran Reed, and Dion Jordan). The defensive coordinator is also different, but I don’t think we should expect much change in going from Kris Richard to Ken Norton, an extremely-experienced Carroll disciple.
Will the Seahawks force as many turnovers in 2018? Impossible to say now, but not improbable given where they were a year ago and what’s coming back. More importantly: will they do it consistently?