You may remember being infuriated by the Seattle Seahawks’ woeful defense to start the year, but they had one hell of a knack for generating turnovers.
Through the first nine games of the regular season, the Seahawks defense and special teams combined for 15 takeaways and had at least one in every game except the loss to the Buffalo Bills. On the flip side, the Seahawks offense gave it away 13 times but ten of them came in that ugly stretch versus the Cardinals, Bills, and Rams.
Pete Carroll’s “all about the ball” mentality surely played a role in his meddling with the offense towards the back-end of the season.
While the scoring and efficiency tanked, the crackdown on turnovers worked. The Seahawks only turned it over four times over the final seven regular season games, and they won six of seven largely against opposition they should be beating anyway.
But then the playoffs happened, and the turnovers returned at the worst possible time, and the Los Angeles Rams turned those two giveaways into 14 precious points. For context, the Seahawks had only allowed touchdowns off turnovers three times in the entire regular season. DJ Reed’s fumbled punt return was the first special teams turnover for the Seahawks all year, a telltale sign that it really was just a poor and ugly showing all around.
Another problem? The Rams had turned it over at least once in every game except last Saturday. Not ideal and also part of the untold story of the Seahawks defense through the second half of the year.
The good news for Seattle’s defense is that the points allowed drastically went down, but they only managed seven takeaways during that eight-game span from regular season to postseason — tied for 24th in the NFL and 2nd fewest among all playoff teams. So unfortunately the overall turnover margin from Week 11 to elimination was only +1, the bare minimum improvement from Week 1-10.
And yes, the ultimate killer for the 2020 Seahawks was their 0-5 record when losing the turnover battle. One could argue that Russell Wilson’s overtime interception against the Arizona Cardinals might have been the most costly of the season just for seeding purposes; even a tie would’ve been good enough to put Seattle in the #2 seed and a win would’ve given them the #1 seed.
In the grander picture of the Seahawks and their lack of recent playoff success, they have been unable to generate turnovers full stop. Dating back to the 2015 campaign, Seattle has only mustered up two takeaways over the span of eight playoff games. The first one was the Adrian Peterson fumble in the 2015 win over the Minnesota Vikings, while the other was a K.J. Wright interception in the 2018 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
From 2012-2014, Seattle’s playoff turnover differential was +9 (19 takeaways vs. 10 giveaways) through eight games. It’s good to have the Legion of Boom at the height of its powers. Contrast that with 2015-2020, which is an unflattering -5 (2 takeaways vs. 7 giveaways). Just off of memory the Seahawks haven’t even been particularly close to actually getting more takeaways, either. A scan of the box scores says that Seattle has only forced three fumbles (Peterson one included) during this five-season span of Wild Card and Divisional Round exits.
Just one of the many reasons why Seattle has not come particularly close to an NFC Championship Game since 2014.