I think it’s fair to say that even with the unexpected success of the 2022 Seattle Seahawks, there were several occasions that they effectively beat themselves or nearly beat themselves with critical mistakes.
Seattle committed 23 turnovers, tied for the 2nd most in the Pete Carroll era with the 2011 team, and eight turnovers behind the 2010 squad. Add in the postseason berth the 2022 team managed that the 2011 side did not and last year’s Seahawks gave it away 25 times, so technically they should have runner-up spot all too themselves.
Turnovers are already bad as is; what happened after those turnovers is going to be a point of emphasis for this season’s Seahawks.
Seahawks Turnover Outcomes (including postseason)
11 opposition offensive touchdowns
2 interception or fumble return touchdowns
4 field goals
3 turnovers on downs
1 end of game kneeldown
You are reading that correctly. A whopping 68 percent of the Seahawks’ 25 giveaways resulted in an opposition score, including 13 touchdowns. For perspective, the 2018 Seahawks only had 11 turnovers for the entire season.
Stathead’s Drive Finder tool only focuses on offensive drives and excludes return/defensive touchdowns, so for the interest of this exercise we’ll keep the rest of this paragraph to those parameters. The 2022 Seahawks defense had the third-worst “turnover to touchdown” rate in the NFL, behind the Detroit Lions and (believe it or not) the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. Why yes, Kansas City had a turnover bugaboo that disappeared during their playoff run, but they still won 17 of 20 games. Patrick Mahomes is a cheat code, and their margin for error is the widest of any team in the league.
While the defense put up close to no resistance whenever Seattle gave the ball up, the offense and special teams obviously take major culpability. Of their 23 turnovers that weren’t returned for touchdowns, 14 gave the opposition the ball either at midfield or in Seahawks territory, tied for most in the NFL. Five times they allowed a touchdown within two offensive snaps. No team allowed more points under these circumstances.
Special teams, as strong as this group was in the back-end of the season, had a pretty rough stretch where they turned it over three times in five games from Weeks 2-6. It was effectively four turnovers when you consider their botched punt in the New Orleans Saints game was marked as a turnover on downs and not a lost fumble by Michael Dickson. Meanwhile, the offense tied for a league-high four turnovers after starting a drive off of a takeaway, so occasionally they were in a “defense taketh, offense giveth away” mode.
Seattle had a turnover differential of +2 but were outscored 91-66 in the points off turnovers statistic. Their 91 points allowed was the worst among all playoff teams. As an aside I wish the NFL had “points off turnovers” as an official statistic akin to the NBA—maybe they do and I’ve not looked hard enough—so these are just manual calculations.
As wondrous as Geno Smith’s Comeback Player of the Year performance was, he was also officially charged with 17 turnovers (12 interceptions, 5 lost fumbles), which made him one of the league leaders in giveaways. Obviously not every interception is the quarterback’s fault, and keep in mind that botched handoffs are always charged to the quarterback. For instance, the dropped pitch to Dee Eskridge in the Los Angeles Chargers game goes down as a lost fumble by Smith when it was Eskridge’s mistake. So there’s a little room for fiddling with the real numbers for all quarterbacks in this department. Having been spoiled by the consistently low turnover rate of Russell Wilson for nearly a decade, Geno’s turnovers obviously stick out a bit and you’d like to see that lowered moving forward. He’ll otherwise need Josh Allen or Mahomes-esque production to override those turnovers.
We also saw the rarity of Tyler Lockett losing two fumbles after going his whole career with only one lost fumble. DK Metcalf lost two fumbles very early in the season after losing none in 2021 (and fumbling just once that year). We do not speak of the trick play they trotted out with DeeJay Dallas.
The one player who did his job with ball security all season long given his high usage rate was Kenneth Walker III, which is in line with his reputation in college.
All of this is to say that one of the keys to the Seahawks being a better team in 2023 is to take much better care of the ball than they did in 2022. It ain’t reasonable to expect them to be another Kansas City, who seem impervious to their self-inflicted mistakes, so the best path is to turn it over less. Even when turnovers inevitably happen, Seattle has to minimize the damage and not get repeatedly bulldozed for touchdowns as soon as they give the ball away. There’s a lot of room for improvement to be had, and it can be the difference between a playoff berth and an early offseason, or a division title with home-field advantage versus a wild card and staying on the road.