On Turnovers & Special Teams

Did you know that there are only 14 teams who have more takeaways than giveaways?  Actually, that probably sounds right.  It still doesn’t strike me as all that impressive.

Did you know the Seahawks are tied for 10th in the league in turnover differential with +3?

I find teams that rely on turnover differential to be successful are kinda like basketball teams who live and die by the 3-point shot.  When you’re successful, you’re able to blow some teams out.  But, when your shot isn’t falling, often you struggle to score points.  I’d like to know how often the Seahawks score off of turnovers vs. how often they score on their own; then compare that to the rest of the NFL.  But, that’s a lot of work, and I got shit to do.

To break it down, Matt Hasselbeck has thrown 6 interceptions in our 6 games – which isn’t the worst thing in the world I guess, though if he ends the season with 16 interceptions, that’s probably not cool.  Our defense has nabbed 6 interceptions – with Earl Thomas catching 4 of those.  Anyway, that means we’ve forced and recovered 3 more fumbles than we’ve given up.  I’m not gonna lie to you, I kinda wish those stats were reversed and we were picking teams off more.  I mean, yeah, that’s great that you teach your guys how to strip a football (in lieu of, I dunno, proper tackling I guess); but EVERY team teaches their guys how to strip a football (outside of San Diego, apparently, who’s at -8 in the fumbles side).

Take, for instance, the New Orleans Saints.  They currently sit at -5 in turnover differential, good for a tie at the 25th spot in the league.  Is it any wonder that they’re so inconsistent?  They’ve lost two games by doing nothing but turning the ball over.  Two games they damn well should have won (against Max Hall and the Cardinals and against Colt McCoy and the Browns) because they threw a combined 7 interceptions and lost 1 fumble (against generating only 1 interception for a -7 turnover ratio in those two games).

If you’re a contending team, a reigning Super Bowl champion, you don’t lose to the likes of Colt McCoy and Max Hall.  But, that’s what turnovers will do for you.  And, really, it’s a taste of their own medicine, because all last year they were one of the most opportunistic (if not THE most) in the entire NFL and THAT’S why they went so far as to win it all.

Turnover Differential can win you championships.  But, it can also bite you in the ass if you’re not careful.

On the flip side, another cheap way to score/swing momentum/dominate field position is via Special Teams.

No one gives Special Teams any respect.  Hence why they always throw rookies into the mix (since it’s one of the more brutal positions on the team, where hitting is at a maximum).  And yet, Seattle apparently has one of the better Special Teams in the business.

All game last week, they kept talking about how Seattle leads the league in Starting Field Position.  I wondered if Starting Field Position takes into account returns for touchdown, but that’s not really the point.  We are number 1 in kickoff return average at 32.2, and I know damn well that factors in touchdowns.  We’re only 14th in punt return average at 9.9, but still that’s not bad.  When you also include turnovers, that Starting Field Position ranking is huge!

People like to poo poo all over Special Teams because they’re unsuccessful MOST of the time.  If your intent is to score every time, that is.  Let’s face it, if you return 4 or more kicks or punts for touchdowns in a season, you’re one of the better teams in football.  But still, points are points, and if you’re good at returning the football, that’s just as good as anything you’ll do on offense.

Leading the league in kickoff return average is big, because it IS an average.  You’re going to have some 20 yard returns more often than not, but you’re also going to have some 40 or 50 yard returns.  You might even have a couple 99+ yard returns that single-handedly win you a football game.  This shit adds up.  It relieves stress from your offense.  And it’s got to rejuvinate your defense, either by popping a big runback after a score, or by popping a big runback after a stop and a punt.

Special Teams can bring you right back into a football game in the blink of an eye, or they can turn a close game into a rout.

But, if they’re bad, Special Teams can cost you dearly.  They can take a 10-win team and chop them down to 7 or 8 wins.  You can be solid on offense and stout on defense, but if the other team is gashing you every time, blocking punts, etc., I don’t care how good you are on offense or defense, you’re going to be in for a battle!

Turnovers and Special Teams are oft-overlooked in the NFL landscape.  Except when they go against you, then there’s nothing more frustrating.

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