The Seahawks are still looking to force their first turnover of the season.
The numbers that stand out the most for the Seahawks’ defense are one and zero.
One is where the Seahawks again stand in the key NFL statistical categories of total defense (248.5 yards per game) and points (9.5) after two weeks.
Zero is the number of turnovers the Seahawks have forced through two games, pretty much the only real blemish on the resume of the Seattle defense other than a few big plays that helped the Rams score just enough to win 9-3 Sunday.
“We’ve got to get the ball,” Seattle defensive coordinator Kris Richard said Thursday, mentioning the turnovers and explosive plays (runs of 12 yards or longer and passes of 16 or longer — he said the Seahawks have allowed 11 so far) as the two disappointments to date for the defense.
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The Seahawks were once the best in the NFL at forcing turnovers, leading the league with 39 in 2013.
But the numbers have dipped a little the last two years. Seattle forced 24 in 2014, tied for 20th in the NFL, and 23 last year, tied for 17th, a somewhat humbling turn for a team that has one entire practice day devoted to the topic — Turnover Thursday — and that also lives by a mantra that “It’s All About the Ball.”
One theory for the drop is that opponents have gotten savvy to way the Seahawks play defense and have learned how to limit beating themselves by not attempting to throw at the likes of Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas, instead more readily accepting checkdown passes.
The reality is, that’s also what Seattle’s defense is designed to do — not take gambles to give up big plays, happy with the idea of letting teams get small gains with the thought that it’s harder to score with a bunch of little plays than it is one big play. The Seahawks could undoubtedly force more turnovers if they played more aggressively, but Seattle annually ranks near the bottom in blitz percentage, with coach Pete Carroll feeling a somewhat more conservative approach is the better way to go.
Richard Thursday agreed that opposing offenses are likewise playing it more conservatively than ever against the Seahawks.
“Yeah, and it’s smart football,” he said. “We don’t want them to do that, we want them to throw them. Throw them on Sherman. I mean of course, it’s natural. It’s part of it. There’s no mystery, there’s no secret. We coach it. It’s part of our philosophy. It’s part of who we are as a defense and they know it.”
Linebacker K.J. Wright agreed with that assessment.
“As you’ve seen, we haven’t seen a lot of jump balls towards Sherm’s side or to [DeShawn] Shead’s side either,” Wright said. “Teams are being really conservative against us.”
But Richard said the Seahawks still have to figure out a way to get the ball for their offense.
“It doesn’t make a difference, we still have to go out there and create them,” he said.
The lack of turnovers is a big reason why the Seahawks have essentially had the worst field position in all of football so far. Seattle did not start any of its 10 drives against the Rams outside of its own 25 (or, any further than it got for a touchback on a kickoff). And in 22 possessions Seattle has yet to start one in opposition territory.
Richard believes that things will turn, and hopefully soon.
“That’s been a saying that we’ve had around here for a while that they come in bunches,” he said. “And we’ve been close. We’ve been close. But we understand that that’s a part of our football team and we have to do our part. We’ve got to go out there, we’ve got to get that football and we’ve got to give our offense as many chances as possible. That’s our responsibility. That’s one part of our game to where we know we want to get better at. We’ve got to get the football.”