Near the end of the first quarter Thursday night in Arizona, the Cardinals trailed the Seahawks 7-0 when they mounted their third drive of the game, starting at their 25. On second and 11, QB Drew Stanton missed badly on a throw intended for WR Jaron Brown, but DE Michael Bennett was dinged for a face mask infraction, giving Arizona a first down on its 39. And then more nonsense happened.
On third and six from the Seattle 46, rookie CB Shaquill Griffin was flagged for pass interference, giving the Cardinals a first down. Three plays later, on third and eight, CB Justin Coleman drew a ticky-tack,hands-to-the-face-penalty, giving the Cardinals another first down.
Then, on first and 10 from the Seattle 33, DT Sheldon Richardson was called for roughing ‘ Stanton, helping set up a 14-yard TD pass to TE Jermaine Gresham, tying the score 7-7. With four fouls, the defense all but gifted Arizona the touchdown.
The Seahawks went on to win 22-16 despite losing All-Pro CB Richard Sherman to a season-ending Achilles rupture (see Thiel: Seahawks get a win, but lose Sherman) and despite a continuation of rules-breaking that threatens to be historic.
It’s all about the penalties.
The Seahawks drew 13 flags (12 accepted) for 108 yards. In addition to the four that abetted Arizona’s first touchdown, there were two false starts (Germain Ifedi, Matt Tobin), offensive holding (Terence Garvin, Oday Aboushi, Ethan Pocic)), clipping (Luke Willson), defensive pass interference (Jeremy Lane) and defensive offsides (Bennett).
A week ago, in a never-should-have-happened loss to the Washington Redskins at CenturyLink Field, Seattle incurred a season-high 16 penalties (one shy of the club record against Green Bay in 1984) for 138 yards. Two weeks before that, against the New York Giants, the Seahawks were docked 15 times for 110 yards.
The Seahawks have been penalized 94 times for 780 yards. Excluding Russell Wilson’s 290, and Seattle has more penalty yards than rushing yards, 616. The Seahawks have 21 more penalties that the second-most penalized team, the New York Jets.
The Seahawks also have more penalties than the Redskins (45) and Carolina Panthers (39) combined (84). They have 93 more penalty yards (780) than the Panthers and Redskins combined (687). Among NFL leaders, this is where the Seahawks rank in several penalty categories:
|Illegal use of hands||7||1||Coleman 2, Reed 2, D. Alexander 2|
|False start||15||T1||Ifedi 5, no other player more than 1|
|Defensive offsides||7||T1||Bennett 5, Clark 1, Avril 1|
|Def. pass interference||8||T2||Lane 3, Griffin 2, Sherman 2|
|Off. pass interference||4||T2||McEvoy, Lockett, Willson, Madden, 1|
|Illegal block||5||T2||Five players with 1 each|
|Offensive holding||16||5||Ifedi 6, Aboushi 5, Odhiambo 2|
Another thing about Seattle’s 94 penalties: Since the NFL and American Football League merged in 1970, only the 1993 and 2016 Raiders had as many as 94 in the first nine games of a season. No Seattle team had more than 83 in the first nine games (83 in both 1984 and 2011).
These are the most-flagged teams in the first nine games of a season since the merger:
|1993||Raiders||94||10-6, lost in divisional playoffs to Buffalo|
|2016||Raiders||94||12-4, but lost in wild card round to Texans|
|2017||Seahawks||94||780 penalty yards, 34 more penalties than foes
|1984||Lions||92||4-11-1 under head coach Monte Clark|
|2010||Raiders||91||Seattle OL coach Tom Cable was head coach|
|2011||Raiders||91||8-8 under new head coach Hue Jackson|
|1987||Cowboys||90||7-8 in Tom Landry’s next-to-last season|
|2005||Raiders||90||4-12, then fired coach Norv Turner|
|2015||Bills||90||8-8, missed playoffs, fired coach Rex Ryan|
The franchise record for most penalties in a season is 138 in 2011. At their current rate of 10.44 per game, the 2017 Seahawks would wind up with 167.
That would also break the NFL’s single-season record, 163 by Oakland in 2011.
During Pete Carroll’s eight years as head coach, the Seahawks have led the NFL in penalties twice, in 2013 and 2014, both Super Bowl years. They have been in the top 10 in penalties five other times, all but one of those playoff years.
The Seahawks have always been able to overcome penalties. Somehow, this year seems different.