By Dave Wyman
The Seahawks have committed 34 penalties for a total of 354 yards this preseason. That's an entire game's worth of yardage for a good NFL offense.
Friday night against the Packers, the Seahawks' penalty yardage was just 19 yards short of Green Bay's entire offensive output. You could feel head coach Pete Carroll's exasperation as he admonished guard J.R. Sweezy on the sidelines for an unnecessary late hit penalty in the first quarter.
A debatable pass-interference call on cornerback Will Blackmon was one of 14 penalties called against the Seahawks Friday, bringing their total to 34 through three preseason games. (AP)
Before you start wringing your hands over one of the few weaknesses this Seahawks team has shown, don't worry. As it turns out, penalties don't always tell the story of a team's success, and it certainly hasn't for the Seahawks this preseason.
Last year's Super Bowl winner, the Ravens, ranked first in penalty yardage as they were flagged for 1,127 yards during the regular season. Three other playoff teams ranked high on that list, including the Redskins, Packers and the 49ers, the NFC champions.
Certainly bad teams commit lots of penalties, but rest assured it's not an incredibly telling statistic like turnover ratio or scoring defense. Yes, the Raiders and Browns amass lots of penalties every season, and neither team has made it to the playoffs in years.
But sometimes the most penalized teams are also the most aggressive teams. You're probably going to see pass interference and unnecessary roughness penalties out of the Seahawks no matter how much things get cleaned up. The offensive linemen and defensive backs that the Seahawks covet are typically a rough bunch of dudes. Sweezy, Breno Giacomini, Brandon Browner and Kam Chancellor are the kind of guys that will hit first and ask questions later.
Adding to the problem is the NFL's further enforcement of defenseless player and helmet-to-helmet penalties in a desperate attempt to make an inherently unsafe game safe.
Friday night's game included three or four of the most ridiculous phantom calls I've ever witnessed. Cornerback Will Blackmon was called for pass interference because he brushed up against the sleeve of a Packers receiver. Linebacker Bobby Wagner was flagged for unnecessary roughness for hitting a receiver with his shoulder and dislodging a football that surely would have been caught. Linebacker John Lotulelei was penalized for a late hit on a play that had not been whistled dead yet.
At least the calls went both ways. The most ridiculous call of the game was on Packers linebacker Terrell Manning for a perfectly good hit he put on quarterback Brady Quinn. Manning received a roughing-the-passer penalty for hitting Quinn while the ball was still in his hand.
I'm hoping that the old cliché, "this is preseason for the refs, too," rings true and we don't see unrealistic enforcement of these rules during the regular season.
There's no question the Seahawks need to fix their problem. False-start penalties and late hits are a matter of discipline and self-control. Based on the butt-chewing Carroll gave Sweezy for his transgression, I'd say that problem will be addressed this week in practice.
In the meantime, the Seahawks do have a penalty problem, but it's not chronic. There are aggressive penalties, and then there are bonehead, dead-ball penalties – the former more tolerable than the latter. But look for the Seahawks to clean up both in the next couple of weeks.