RENTON — There remains no more predictive stat for the Seahawks than turnovers.
Seattle forced 32 turnovers this season, third most in the NFL, which led to a plus-12 turnover differential, also third best in the league.
The Seahawks were 8-1 this year when winning the turnover battle (meaning they were 3-4 when they didn’t) and are 29-4 since 2015 when forcing more turnovers in a game than they allow.
“Turnovers win football games,” said defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.
That was never more true than in the first meeting this year between the Seahawks and the Eagles when Seattle forced a season-high five turnovers on its way to a 17-9 win. The two teams play again Sunday in a wild-card playoff game in Philadelphia.
“That just demoralizes you in our execution and things of that nature,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said Wednesday when recalling that game. “You can’t do that and expect to win against good football teams, against a Russell Wilson-led football team.”
That game came during a five-game stretch in which Seattle forced 16 turnovers — or half of its season total.
In what no one around the team thinks is a coincidence, those are also the five games this year in which free safety Quandre Diggs started.
Diggs suffered a high-ankle sprain against Carolina on Dec. 15, though, and didn’t play in the final two games of the season. Seattle did not force a turnover in either game in losing at home to the Cardinals and 49ers.
“You all saw it and felt it,” coach Pete Carroll said this week about the impact Diggs made in the five games in which he played after being acquired in October in a trade from Detroit. “His experience, his savvy, his confidence, it has an effect.”
And the good news is that Diggs was able to practice Wednesday for the first time since being injured with an eye on returning to play against the Eagles.
“We’re thrilled to get him back out there if that’s the case,” Carroll said. “We need him.”
Before practice, Diggs hesitated just a little in proclaiming himself as sure to play.
“We’ll see,” he said. “We’ve got to get through the week, and we’ll go from there. You never know what will happen at practice. I just want to try to put my best foot forward.”
Any foot forward, though, could make quite a difference for a Seattle defense that played its best this season when Diggs was patrolling the back end.
“The moment he got here he picked up the defense really, really quick,” said middle linebacker Bobby Wagner. “Started making checks really fast, understanding what checks we were making really, really fast. He’s a really smart, intelligent dude who knows how to play the game of football at a really high level.”
Diggs’ first game with Seattle was the upset win at San Francisco in which the 49ers gained just 302 yards in 70 minutes. The next week was the win at Philly.
Diggs was hurt making a tackle in the first half of the win at Carolina, in which Seattle had a 20-7 lead at halftime before having to hang on when a few more players (notably Wagner) got hurt in the final moments.
“Just making a tackle,” Diggs said of how he got hurt. “Foot got caught underneath. Crazy incident. Both of my injuries have been crazy incidents this year (he suffered a hamstring injury while still with Detroit).”
High-ankle sprains can often hold players out for longer than the two games Diggs would miss if he can make it back this week.
He said he had a similar injury in high school which at least gives him some familiarity with the injury.
“It’s part of the game,” he said. “I’m not any different than any other guy that gets injured or any other guy who’s playing this sport and knowing how physical and demanding this sport is. There are some things you’ve just got to take and ride with it. I’m just glad that it wasn’t too long of an injury.”
That it’s playoff time also may help speed up the injury process.
Detroit qualified for the postseason just once in Diggs’ four full seasons there, in 2016 when the Lions had to travel to play a wild-card game against the Seahawks.
Diggs had a pectoral injury and didn’t play, also missing the final four games of the regular season.
“I had torn my pec when Detroit came up to play Seattle, so I was hurt,” Diggs said. “Thinking I’m a second-year guy and we made the playoffs, it’s going to be consistent. Then, you’ve got to wait until your fifth year to make them again. It’s definitely a blessing. Definitely excited. It will be a fun atmosphere.”