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Seahawks are the undisputed fumble kings! (quieter: on both sides of the ball)

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Seattle Seahawks v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The 2009 New Orleans Saints. That’s the Super Bowl champion defense I always come back to when it comes to defenses that are valuable even when they don’t seem all that valuable. Why?

Turnovers, baby.

A couple weeks ago I tweeted out something about “The Seahawks are gonna need to win this game with turnover defense. Need 3 to get it done.” That was against the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night. They got three. They got it done.

On Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Seahawks played solid overall defense against an offense that is struggling without capable receivers and a banged up offensive line. But the best defense they played was forcing five turnovers, which helped mitigate their two giveaways on offense — one interception and one fumble lost. It’s a tale as old as the time it was started to be told, which I’m guessing is like a few decades ago — not as old as time.

That would be weird if at the big bang, they knew you had to win the turnover battle. Though who knows what was on the agenda back then.

Bazinga.

Speaking of bazinga, last season after the loss of Sheldon Richardson (that’s the best I could do to make that awful segue work), Seattle forced 26 fumbles and recovered 14, tied for most in the league. They also lost the fewest fumbles on offense. They recovered 63% of fumbles, second-best mark in the league after the LA Rams. That’s good!

This year, the Seahawks have again recovered the most fumbles in the league after forcing 20 of them. Great, fantastic, and these pretzels are making me thirsty. Since the start of 2018, no defense has forced and recovered more fumbles that Pete Carroll and Ken Norton’s defense. This year however, only the Eagles and NY Giants have lost more fumbles than Chris Carson’s team. That’s bad.

“How you doin’?”

Not great, Bob.

Fumbles and the recovery of them have been cited as the most rrrrandom! aspect of the game but being able to force them could make some sense if you employ players like Kam “Bam!” Chancellor and the like. What’s really strange to me is that Seattle’s forced so many fumbles this season despite having one of the worst pass rushes in the league and that means they aren’t generating most of them through sacks on the quarterback like I would have expected.

Rank in fumbles recovered

2010: 17th

2011: 19th

2012: 7th

2013: 11th

2014: 10th

2015: 16th

2016: 19th

2017: 7th

2018: 1st

2019: 1st

Not only has Carroll managed to keep Seattle in the top 20 in fumbles recovered throughout his Seahawks tenure, he’s now had them at 7th, 1st, and 1st in each of the last three seasons.

From 2017-present, the Seahawks and New England Patriots are tied for the most takeaways with 75 each.

Seattle’s turnover margin in that time of +32 is second to New England’s +35.

That’s how, in my mind, the Seahawks can have a defense that a lot of people called “bad” through eight or nine games can actually not be that bad at all. Seattle gives up the frustrating plays sometimes and we’ve seen a defense look tired at moments they don’t want to look tired, and miss tackles when you never want to miss a tackle, but many errors have been mitigated by a unit that is looking to get the ball back in Russell Wilson’s hands as soon as possible.

Sometimes resistance is futile, yada yada yada, and the one way to schwing the field is to force the ball loose, dude.

(Hurley from Lost’s catch phrase was “Dude.”)

Sean Payton is nearly as bad at coaching defense as he is good on coaching offense. Or on hiring guys to scheme it and drafting/signings personnel to execute it. In 2009, the Saints finished 1st in points, yards, passing touchdowns, passer rating, completion percentage, and were sixth in rushing yards, seventh in yards per carry, and third in rushing touchdowns. Through 11 games they were even better: 1st in rushing touchdowns, 1st in passing touchdowns, 5th in yards per carry.

New Orleans began 13-0 but it didn’t all appear to be great. The defense finished that season ranked 20th in points allowed, 25th in yards allowed, 26th in yards per carry allowed, and 20th in net yards per pass attempt allowed.

But the Saints were second in takeaways. At 13-0, New Orleans had an NFL-best 37 turnovers forced and were locked into the top seed in the NFC. The Saints lost their last three games, forcing only one turnover in that time and dropping their overall ranking, but it was clear that Payton’s defense wasn’t totally inept.

The atrocious human Darren Sharper had nine interceptions in only 14 games. Five players forced at least two fumbles. Will Smith led the way with 13 sacks and 26 QB hits.

In the playoffs, they forced two turnovers in an easy wild card win over the Arizona Cardinals and five in an OT win over the Minnesota Vikings. They needed all five, including a fumble lost by Brett Favre, a fumble lost by Percy Harvin, and a fumble lost by Bernard Berrian. Favre also threw two picks, the one at regulation cementing the end of his career as one that was a bit too turnover-laden to include more than one Super Bowl championship.

Up 24-17 in the Super Bowl against Peyton Manning, Tracy Porter housed a pick with 3:24 left to seal a championship for Brees and the other Payton.

I’m seein’ double. Two Krustys!

Seattle’s defense will not rank high in DVOA, it appears. They won’t rank high in points allowed or yards allowed or even sacks. They are not doing what former Seattle defensive assistant Robert Saleh is doing in San Francisco with the Niners right now. They don’t have a front that can compete with their front. But they do seem to have something else.

Your ball.

I’m Rick James, bitch.

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