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Road map: seeking turnovers, and a turnaround
DETROIT – Here they go again.
The Seahawks are taking their show on the road for the fourth time in a five-game stretch, as they’ll play the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on Sunday. But how can they assure coming home with a win that will lift them to 5-3 at the midway point of coach Pete Carroll’s third season, rather than hitting the halfway mark at .500?
“The biggest issue I have with our team right now is we’ve got to get the football away from our opponents,” Carroll said to start the week on Monday. “It’s gone quiet a little bit on the turnover thing.
“Here we go on the road again. We’ve got to get the football away from our opponents, which gives us field advantages, shorter opportunities to get into the scoring zones and all that kind of stuff.”
Not to mention a better chance to win. And, when on the road, it’s also been a two-way street.
In their four road games, the Seahawks have produced six turnovers, while turning the ball over nine times. That’s a minus-3 differential that has played directly into their 1-3 record. At home, where the Seahawks are unbeaten in three games, it’s four takeaways and two giveaways.
Of those six turnovers generated on the road, three have led to scores – a touchdown and two field goals – because of that shorter field Carroll mentioned. But two others have come after the opposition had reached at the Seahawks’ 27- and 3-yard lines, preventing scores.
So forcing more turnovers obviously is way for the Seahawks to force the issue, and improve on their 6-14 road record under Carroll.
The players are well aware of what Carroll has been emphasizing all week. They refer to it as “Just playing our game,” and turnovers have been a big part of their game when successful. Last season, they were plus-8 in turnover differential, with 31 takeaways. In 2010, it was minus-9, with 20 takeaways. Through seven games this season, it’s minus-1, with those 10 takeaways.
The Lions, meanwhile, are minus-5 in six games this season and have turned the ball over 11 times – including losing a fumble at the Bears’ 17-yard line, muffing a punt at their own 27-yard line, losing another fumble at the Bears’ 1-yard line and having a pass intercepted at the Bears’ 20-yard line in Monday night’s six-point loss in Chicago.
“If you look at the Chicago game, they’re inside the 5, they didn’t get in,” defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. “Then they got down there again and they fumbled. So some unfortunate things are happening to them, but they are moving the ball.”
To the tune of 406.3 yards per game, which ranks the Lions’ offense fourth in the league.
So this game appears to be a case of turnovers waiting to happen against desperately wanting to create turnovers.
“That’s what we talked to our guys about, to keep having faith and doing the right things,” Bradley said. “We put a premium on it this week. We really emphasized it. We do every week, but this week it’s so critical against such an explosive team to try to get the ball off them.”
There’s even an incentive program in place.
“Whoever gets the most strips, they get the best parking spot,” Pro Bowl free safety Earl Thomas said. “So coach Carroll has been doing a great job with emphasizing it, and the team always takes on the coaches’ personality.
“So the coaches have stressed taking the ball away. Guys are aware of it. It’s in our head. So we’re definitely going to try and go after the ball.”
A fumble-forcing sack by Chris Clemons would be nice. An interception by Thomas, or cornerback Brandon Browner, or cornerback Richard Sherman, or strong safety Kam Chancellor – especially if it’s a pick-six – would be even better.
“It’s not just the secondary, it’s not just the pass rush, it’s not just the young linebackers,” Lions coach Jim Schwartz said this week when asked the Seahawks’ aggressive, physical defense. “It’s a combination of all of them. They very rarely make mistakes. If somebody is going to beat them, they’re going to have to drive the ball on them. Not a whole lot of big plays against that defense.”
More big plays by that defense is the Seahawks’ goal on Sunday.
The large signs in the defensive meeting room at Virginia Mason Athletic Center say it best: It’s all about the ball.
Never more so than when the Seahawks take their show on the road, and even more so against Sunday’s opponent.
“The teams that are having some success against them are getting turnovers,” Bradley said. “That’s always part of our game, part of our mindset with this game and every game. It’s really important.
“With that being said, we have gotten more takeaways and turnovers at home than we have on the road. So it’s been an emphasis. We have to get those takeaways on the road.”