Golden Tate and the Seahawks stole a game from the Packers. K.J. Wright did the same thing to the Lions. The Seahawks are cheaters who get every break from the officials. That is the general perception around the league. Reality tells a much different story.
Seahawks opponents are least penalized for second straight year
Not only were the Seahawks the most penalized team in football last year, but their opponents were the least penalized. Meaning, referees threw fewer penalty flags against whoever Seattle played than any other team in the league.
In fact, the 4.4 penalties per game were the second-fewest penalties called against opponents since Pete Carroll arrive in Seattle in 2010. The Chicago Bears saw their opponents flagged just 4.3 times per game in 2013. The difference there was another team, the Cincinnati Bengals had a similar experience with just 4.4 penalties called against their opponents, and two other teams had 5.2 penalties called against their foes.
The closest teams to Seattle last year were New England, Atlanta, and the NY Jets who saw nearly a penalty-and-a-half more per game called against their opponents (5.7). The Seahawks were a clear outlier.
It is happening again this year, to a slightly lesser extent. Seattle is once again last in the NFL in opponent penalties, with just 5.1 flags thrown per game. They are not quite the outlier they were a year ago, but the gulf is still rather large with San Francisco and Atlanta getting just 5.6 calls going their way this year.
Tangible game impact
This is not just a “woe is me” experience for Seattle. There is direct impact on the outcome of games. Consider that the team enjoying the most opponent penalty yards per game, the Indianapolis Colts, gains an average of 92.4 yards per game through opponent penalties. That could be yards the offense moves forward or yards the opposing offense moves backwards. Either way, yards gained for the Colts.
Seattle nets just 35.7 yards in opponent penalties per game. That is a nearly 60 yard difference per game. On the season, the Seahawks are -164 in penalty yard differential. That works out to about 23 yard per game opponents are gaining through penalties.
Controlling what they can control
The Seahawks were near the top of the league in fewest penalties this year before tallying ten against the Bengals. They are still a respectable 6th in the league with just 6.6 penalties per game. They have made great strides in that part of their game, especially in pre-snap penalties like false starts.
The team was by far the worst in the NFL last season with 34 false start penalties, while the next closest team was Chicago with 27, per nflpenalties.com. They are a respectable 15th this season with just seven false starts in seven games.
There are probably some things Seattle can work on to draw more flags. Aaron Rodgers is the master of the hard count. Certain receivers are better at drawing pass interference calls. It would be terrific for Seattle to find some way to draw more offensive holding calls as they have been held egregiously without getting the calls this season. One of the best pass rushes in football has the eighth-fewest opponent holding calls (8) so far this year. They have earned more than that.
The next time someone tries to tell you that the Seahawks get every call and the refs clearly favor them, send them here. The opposite very much appears to be the case. Seattle wins in spite of the refs, not because of them.