Sunday was one of the more extreme examples of what has been a trend for the Seahawks the last five years of getting called for more penalties than their opponents.

Share story

It wasn’t just the number of penalties that the Seahawks received Sunday that bothered coach Pete Carroll but the discrepancy between the number that Seattle had — 11 — and those of the Saints — just three, only two of which were acepted.

Carroll somewhat sarcastically noted after the game noted that New Orleans came in also highly ranked in number of penalties committed, saying “that’s the 26th-ranked penalty team in the league and they just had a great football game.’’

An ESPN story Wednesday revealed how rare it is for one team to have so many more penalties in a game than another. According to the story and crediting ESPN Stats & Information, “the margin of nine or more penalties for one team in a single game has happened just 2.4 percent of the time over the past five seasons (since 2012).’’

Seahawks fans, though, may feel like their team has accounted for every single one of those instances as Seattle has annually been called for more penalties than its opponents since 2011..

In fact, while it’s not true that the Seahawks have had the greatest disparity in penalties every year of late, Seattle has ranked at least in the top eight in penalty disparity every year since 2011, according to numbers from NFLPenalties.com.

Seattle is second this year with a disparity of minus-15 — the Seahawks have had 55 penalties accepted against them while their opponents have 40 — behind only the Raiders (minus-29, committing 86 to their opponents 57).

In 2015, the Seahawks were fourth with a disparity of minus-27 (126-99), behind Tampa Bay (minus 39, 143-104), the Raiders (minus-34, 138-104) and Buffalo (minus-30, 143-113).

In 2014, the Seahawks were at the top of the list by a wide margin — minus-66 (151-85) — with the Patriots next at minus-29 (138-109).

Seattle was also first in 2013 (minus-34, 152-118), eighth in 2012 (minus-12) and second in 2011 (minus-41, behind the Raiders at minus-43).

What may stand out about reviewing those lists is the success of the teams at the top of them.

In 2013 and 2014, the other team joining Seattle at the top was its opponent in the Super Bowl.

That backs up something Carroll has said often when the topic of penalties arise — that there isn’t the correlation everyone might assume between penalty numbers and success (consider that the team with the second-highest positive penalty disparity this season is San Francisco, which is 1-6. Leading the list are the 3-5 Chargers, who are at a whopping plus-28).

Carroll has also noted on many occasions that he knows the style the Seahawks play on defense makes them susceptible to a few more flags than others. Another thought for why good teams get more penalties is that they tend to play in more games where there are greater stakes on the line, and hence more emotion, which can then lead to more flags.

But there are games when penalties do stand out as making a difference, and Sunday was definitely one of those.

Of Seattle’s nine drives Sunday, four ended in either a punt (three) or a turnover (one), and on each there was a penalty that set the Seahawks back.

On Seattle’s first drive, a clipping penalty on second-and-nine essentially killed the march and the Seahawks punted two plays later.

On Seattle’s second drive, a false start on third-and-11 also led to a punt a play later (both of those were charged to left tackle George Fant, making his first career start).

Seattle scored a touchdown on its third drive — when there were no penalties.

On the first play of Seattle’s fourth drive, Mark Glowinski was called for a false start. That led to a pass on first-and-15 that was picked off, a play that led to a short New Orleans drive turned what was a 14-6 Seahawks lead into a 14-13 advantage at halftime.

Seattle moved into field goal range on each of its next two drives, each of which had no penalties.

But on a drive in the third quarter when Seattle was ahead 17-13, another penalty for a block above the waist on Fant on first down put the Seahawks in a hole and led to another punt.

And then after the Seahawks drove to the New Orleans 5 with 7:24 left, and the Saints ahead 22-17, a false start on Christine Michael resulted in second-and-goal from the 10, instead, and played a role in Seattle settling for a field goal.

There were also five penalties on the defense that contributed (which I earlier detailed here) as well as two notable non-calls on Saints’ completions that the Seahawks contested.

The Seahawks, though, didn’t appear to protest any of the offensive penalties, and given how critical each of those was Sunday cleaning up those issues is one of the most obvious ways Seattle can help its offense get back on track.