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January 12, 2008

Seahawks prove discipline, limiting mistakes improve playoff chances

Sitting here watching the Seattle-Green Bay playoff game bull its way through all that snow, I couldn't help but think about an incredible stat produced by the Seahawks this season.

During the 16-game regular-season schedule, Seattle was charged with 3.69 penalties per game, the fewest by an NFL team in 34 seasons. Their totals of 59 penalties and 428 penalty yards were also, obviously, league lows.

Carolina, by comparison, committed 95 penalties for 800 yards. That isn't a swipe at the Panthers. Green Bay, for instance, committed 113 penalties for 1,006 yards, so you don't HAVE to avoid penalties to win.

What it does say is that Seattle coach Mike Holmgren's teams are remarkably disciplined, and rarely lose games by making too many mistakes in that department. If you don't beat yourselves, your chances of making the playoffs improve dramatically, and Holmgren's Seahawks are in the postseason for the fifth straight season.

The last team to better Seattle's penalty stat was the 1973 New England Patriots of Chuck Fairbanks, who had 3.57 penalties per game.


Posted by Observer Sports on January 12, 2008 at 06:07 PM | Permalink


Panthers had too many penalties this year that ended drives on offense.

Posted by: CEREBRUM | Jan 12, 2008 9:09:03 PM

When crediting Seattle, you must account for the records of the teams they played. Judging by the stats, the Seahawks had the easiest scheldule in the league.

Posted by: mattdaddy | Jan 12, 2008 11:00:03 PM

Hell, if we played in their division, we'd be able to make the playoffs, too. As bad as we are, we went 4-0 against them.

Posted by: Michael Procton | Jan 12, 2008 11:46:47 PM

Let's not act like the NFC South is hard now. The West was the worst division in football this year but not so much worse than the South.

Posted by: Brinson | Jan 13, 2008 4:31:33 AM

I agree with Procton the west was terrible. Question on nfl trades. As an example if we trade Jenkins for a 2nd round pick does the other team pick up all of the contract including the amoritizied portion of the bonus, and would the panthers have to pay any of the remaing salary/bonus

Posted by: sam | Jan 13, 2008 9:22:39 AM

Other teams had penalties,BUT,Was still able to score,That was the ENTIRE offense problem all year was to score points,Remember to get 3 points was crucial for Carolina's offense,I mean 3 points,and was lucky to get that,The Key is: To Find a the Top way to BLOCK,POWER RUNNER,NO MORE VANILLA PLAY CALLIN!(It makes the ENTIER team Look soft).

Posted by: #1 Fan | Jan 13, 2008 11:32:12 AM

I gotta agree with Stan on this one. The ol' belief is that sound defense, good special teams, clock control/management, positive turnover ratio and limited penalties is a guaranteed way to be an excellent team. It makes perfect sense to me. That being said, you still have to have quality players that follow through on the game plan to be successful in most of these categories.

Posted by: SYRPIS | Jan 13, 2008 2:25:07 PM

Sam...the signing bonus is typically all paid by the trading team (Panthers) at the time of the contract. In terms of the cap, though, the hit for it is spread equally over the course of the year. When a player is traded, his new team has to pay the remaining portion of his base salary (which is typically NOT spread evenly over the length of the contract), and those numbers (as appropriate year by year) are counted against THEIR cap. The Panthers would, however, have to take the cap hit of the remaining pro-rated signing bonus, either immediately, or spread across two years after a certain date (June 1?)
For Jenkins, this would be $3.67 mil total, or $1.835 mil over two years. Assuming it was spread, this would save us $2.955 mil this year and $3.71 mil next year. If it were taken all this year, it would cost us $715K this year, and it would save us $5.545 next year.
Given those numbers and our cap situation, there's no way we take the full hit this year, and, in general, I feel like those financial savings aren't worth trading one of the players who most consistently plays with heart and passion (fatass and poor conditioning notwithstanding.) If they really feel, though, that he does more harm in the locker room than he does good off the field, maybe they do it anyway.

Posted by: Michael Procton | Jan 13, 2008 2:28:59 PM

I believe the Panthers are most likely to select either a defensive end or safety in this year’s draft, but the more I read about Oregon running back Jonathan Stewart the more I wonder if he wouldn’t be the better fit for the team, especially considering his power-running style and measurables (5’11”, 235).

He appears to be from the same mold as the only true All-Pro running back to ever don a Panthers jersey, Stephen Davis.
He runs with a low center of gravity; has great speed for a back his size (4.48/40); runs with great forward lean; and most of all, he hits the inside hole with great burst and power.
He picks up chunks of yardage after first contact, seemingly bouncing off of defenders, and has the ability to take it to the house from virtually anywhere on the field. He started all 13 games for Oregon this season and ran for 1,722 yards and 11 TDs, while averaging 6.2 yds per attempt. Pretty good stats, I’d say.

But the stat that jumped struck me the most was that in his 3 seasons at Oregon he has 0 fumbles. According to ESPN.com, in the 565 times that he’s touched the ball (receptions included), he hasn’t once coughed up the ball. That’s pretty amazing, folks.

I’ve scanned the net for some footage of him rushing for the Ducks and turned up a fairly nice compilation of some of his better plays on youtube. Here’s the link:


While I’d love to see either Kenny Phillips or Vernon Gholston suiting up for Carolina next season, I think that perhaps Stewart might be the best fit for the team, especially considering that the “power back” is the sparkplug for this team’s offense.

Posted by: hillbilly | Jan 13, 2008 6:57:52 PM

How 'bout dem cowboys. No playoff wins in like forever. Phony Tony Romop-up QB. Luv it.

Posted by: Dan | Jan 13, 2008 8:17:02 PM

Hillbilly, I think Stewart would be a FANTASTIC fit for us (if he could stay healthy in the NFL, something he had trouble with in college), but I think getting him at 13 would be a reach. If we could trade down (as we did for Beason last year), then maybe we could consider it, but I really think we have much bigger NEEDS. You know how much people are enthralled with Williams' "potential", and I think Foster is a good enough back that the $1.5 mil that we'd have to eat is too much to just cut bait on him. Do you pay Stewart 1st-round money to let him (at best) split carries? I think that's a clear sign (even if they get rid of Foster) that they don't believe in Williams. I'd much rather get Kenny Phillips, Sedrick Ellis, Sam Baker, or Vernon Gholston, each of whom would certainly start at much shallower positions and would have the opportunity to improve their entire unit through good play much more than any running back (particularly Baker.)

Posted by: Michael Procton | Jan 13, 2008 11:35:13 PM

All of you Foster haters should read this
I agree that he isn't Stephen Davis, but he is still a quality back.

Posted by: SYRPIS | Jan 14, 2008 8:32:39 AM

I am a semi-Foster hater. Basically because I read this: 7 Fumbles, 3 td's, and 3.5 yd/carry.

Posted by: mattdaddy | Jan 14, 2008 9:03:45 AM

I don't see how Stan Olsen's article in any way justifies starting Foster over Williams, in fact, quite the opposite. If you want unbiased analysis of the two running backs, check out Football Outsiders. Foster ranks next to last out of 50+ running backs with at least 75 carries. Williams ranks 16th. Also, Williams's stats are better than Fotser's in almost every category. Obvoiusly, for some reason the coaches (and their apologists like Stan) favor Foster for some reason other than performance.

Posted by: mash | Jan 14, 2008 9:36:32 AM

Finally we find out what Peppers' mystery illness was/is. Syphilis (STD) from "relations" with one of the team trainers. This disease causes weight loss, muscle aches, and fatigue. Makes sense - wonder if the team knew this ahead of time? Does that not warrant being put on the sideline?

Posted by: Jeremy | Jan 14, 2008 10:13:49 AM

Just like somebody wrote after that article, Foster is a great back if you want to go 7-9. Wins: 5 bottom feeders, 1 win over a playoff team, 1 gimmee from Chucky. If you want mediocrity then you have the right running back and you have the right coach.

Posted by: rick | Jan 14, 2008 10:56:00 AM

Great post hillbilly

Posted by: rick | Jan 14, 2008 10:58:22 AM


Posted by: ray | Jan 14, 2008 12:12:55 PM

As we both could sit here going back and forth, making valid points about which need is more pressing, in the end we would both walk away being fundamentally right in our arguments.

I don’t disagree with you--Phillips, Gholston, and Baker would most certainly make an immediate impact at positions that are sorely lacking in talent and depth. And I think the team will be scratching their heads come draft time if two or more of them are still on the board when the Panthers pick. But--and this is a big but--in terms of which player’s skills fits best in the current coaching staff’s schemes, I think that the strongest case can be made for either Gholston or Stewart.

In Gholston’s case, the Panthers defensive success relies heavily on a strong pass rush from the front-four, and he could seamlessly step in and provide that spark as Rucker retires. Although, Gholston’s impact alone would be near meaningless if Peppers, Jenkins, and Kemoeatu fail to pressure the QB also--which can be traced as the root of this year’s defensive woes. Stopping the run is only half of the defensive equation. And most would argue that stopping the pass is the more critical part because the majority of points come in the passing game.

This season the Panthers defense was able to consistently stop the run, but what good is limiting the opponent to 50 yards or less on the ground, if they end up passing for 300-yards?

I’m sure Harrington and the Falcons would love for the Panthers to maintain that philosophy.

For this team’s defense to have success, it’s as simple as following this formula:

1. Having defensive ends and tackles able to pressure opposing QBs = Consistent pressure on opposing QB.

2. Consistent pressure on opposing QB = less time for QB to make decisions.

3. Less time for QB to make decisions = QB mistakes, sacks, loss of yardage, and turnovers.

4. QB mistakes, sacks, loss of yardage, and turnovers = fewer points for opponents and more opportunities for the offense to put points on the board.

5. Scoring more points than opponents = winning.

I know it sounds too simplistic, but this is the same formula that gave the Panthers defense so much success in ’02 and vaulted them all the way to #2 in the league, despite having Terry Cousins and Reggie Howard as the starting corners.

But now if you look at Stewart, he has the potential to single-handedly improve the entire offense, even though he might not receive more than 50% of the carries.

Williams may turn out to be durable enough to become the featured back that the Panthers have lacked since Davis, but what if he doesn’t? Who does the offense turn to if he sprains an ankle or tears an MCL or heck, even gets the dreaded “turf toe?” For the past two seasons, Foster has proven to be nothing more than mediocre, good for two or three yards, and the Panthers have little depth behind him. And without a solid threat at running back, this team’s offense is little better than Atlanta’s was this season--mediocre.

So I wouldn’t completely rule out this team “reaching” for a quality back like Stewart with the 13th pick in this year’s draft.

But I don’t think anyone would shed any tears if they landed Gholston or Phillips instead--I know I certainly won’t.

Posted by: hillbilly | Jan 14, 2008 8:41:01 PM

I think you're remiss in not mentioning Sam Baker. He's thrived in a high-powered, pro style offense at USC, and has the agility and footwork to do well in the zone blocking system. A move like that could leave us with a starter on the line for 10 years, and it could start a chain reaction of moves like cutting Wahle (who I really do like, actually), moving Wharton to guard (where he really was always the best fit anyway), and making Kalil more comfortable with a guy who he already knows to be his mainstay counterpart for a long time.

Posted by: Michael Procton | Jan 14, 2008 10:32:10 PM

Here's my take on offseason needs (NOT necessarily in order of importance) ...

Number 1 - First and foremost, we need a LT who can be a starter in this league for 10+ years. I've never been high on Travelle Wharton and take a look at how much Cleveland improved by selecting Joe Thomas. I'm not saying that's the only reason they were successful, but having someone to protect the QB's blindside sure didn't hurt matters.

Number 2 - We need a number 2 WR or someone who can serve as a stopgap until Dwayne Jarrett develops. The perfect WR in my eyes for this role, if he becomes a cap casualty is ... Isaac Bruce. I know he's aging, but he's a veteran who's been to a Super Bowl, is surehanded and a class act. He could be the "Mike Minter" of the offense at least for a season.

Number 3 - We need a ballhawking FS to complement the emergence of hard-hitting SS Chris Harris. In my opinion, we already have that person on the roster and please hear me out on this for a minute ... Ken Lucas. Watching him play this season at CB was a disaster. Other than a few interceptions, he wasn't very consistent and I don't have faith in his ability to cover a WR off the line. However, I would be comfortable with him playing deep in the secondary because he still can break on the ball fairly well. It worked for Rod Woodson, not that I'm comparing the two, but I believe Lucas has the size (6'0" 205 pounds) to make the transition. The only drawback is his tackling skills, but with the exception of guys like Roy Williams, Bob Sanders and Brian Dawkins, the majority of FS in the league aren't sure tacklers ... so why not give it a shot?

Number 4 - Acquire depth at key positions. In my eyes, QB is already resolved. Let Moore and Basanez compete for the backup spot. Get rid of Carr. He is an atrocity on and off the field. Drop Morgan, he's DONE. Get rid of that fat piece of garbage Kemo and bring back Damione Lewis. Use the draft to build up key areas. Find a way, if possible to re-sign Jordan Gross and Julius Peppers. Every other UFA is expendable. They can be replaced through the draft. IF the WR scenario I eluded to earlier somehow comes true, then 4 WR spots would be solidified. Get another big-bodied WR (someone in the mold of Karl Hankton)who can play ST either through the draft or FA. I'd like to see Foster cut and replaced with someone a little more powerful at RB to complement Williams' speed, kind of like a "Thunder and Lighting" attack ...

Any feedback on why this plan is/isn't a good idea would be greatly appreciated. I love to hear other people's opinions on this subject ...

Posted by: Shane Dunaway | Jan 14, 2008 11:56:54 PM

Oh yeah, also add to the Number 4 to bring back Brad Hoover, but find someone in the draft who can be groomed to replace him. Remember when the team tried that by drafting Kyle Johnson, who never made the team, yet had some success as a Bronco? I remember it ...

Posted by: Shane Dunaway | Jan 15, 2008 12:00:52 AM

Michael, I agree drafting Sam Baker would cause a chain-reacting of cutting on the O-line, but I'm sure it wouldn't be Wahle who got the pink slip. It would be that mohawk-wearing, waste of space Justin Hartwig ...

What a mistake it was to sign him ...

Posted by: Shane Dunaway | Jan 15, 2008 12:05:28 AM

I love that revisionist history, Shane. Where were you when every NFL analyst out there was calling Hartwig a quality long-term starter? The reason I see Wahle getting cut, though, is the contract status of each. Wahle's got $2 mil of signing bonus left, and has a $3 mil base salary next year, thus, $1 mil savings under the cap if we cut him; Hartwig has $3 mil of SB left and a $2.15 mil base, thus, he'll take up another $850K in cap space we ALREADY don't have. Furthermore, Hartwig is WAY younger, and given his improvement this year, I'd say he has a better chance of reclaiming his past ability than Wahle does, injuries of the past couple years notwithstanding. Hartwig's experience at G/C (pros) as well as OT (college) certainly wouldn't hurt him.

Posted by: Michael Procton | Jan 15, 2008 3:33:34 AM

Hey, Michael, at the time of the signing I was with all the people saying he was a long-term quality starter. The team had opted not to bring back Jeff Mitchell and Bruce Nelson's hip couldn't handle the game, so it was a needed move at the time.

However, this is a "What have you done for me lately?" league and in 32 games, Hartwig has started how many? Something close to 16? You have to be on the field to keep your job, not the training room. Of course the same could be said for Wahle, but he's given our franchise more of a return on our investment than Hartwig ...

Posted by: Shane Dunaway | Jan 15, 2008 11:42:47 AM

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