Hawks have NFL’s worst penalty differential

Pete Carroll reacts to a call in the third quarter of Seattle's 28-26 loss to the St. Louis Rams  (Getty Images)Super Bowl XL goat Bill Leavy’s crew screwed the
Seahawks again, but it’s not like he and his zebras are the only ones who have been giving Seattle opponents a helping hand this season.

On Sunday against Kansas City, the Hawks were flagged eight times (for 50 yards) to the Chiefs’ three (for a whopping six yards). But the Chiefs obviously committed more fouls than that, and the NFL reportedly admitted it Thursday.

The biggest miss was a non-call on pass interference committed by Kansas City cornerback Sean Smith against Seattle receiver Doug Baldwin on fourth down from the 2-yard line late in the fourth quarter of the 24-20 loss. The Seahawks should have had a first down at the 1 — and they almost certainly would have scored a touchdown, which might have resulted in a 27-24 win.

“The interpretation was it definitely played a factor in (Baldwin’s) route and it should have been called,” Carroll told USA Today. “There’s nothing you can do about it. You just have to live with it. That’s just part of the game.”

Unfortunately, it has been a big part of Seattle’s games all season.

The Seahawks have the worst penalty differential in the league, called for 3.6 more penalties per game than their opponents. If that continues, it will easily be the largest margin in the NFL since at least 1990, per sportingcharts.com.

Conspiracy theorists (e.g., Earl Thomas) will argue the NFL has it out for the defending Super Bowl champs. Heck, maybe the league has it out for both Super Bowl XLVIII teams, because Denver leads the league in penalties and is No. 2 in negative differential (3.0).

The Hawks’ differential is almost double what it was last season, when they led the league in penalties and were second in differential to Cincinnati at -1.88.

It is not as much about the flags the Hawks are drawing — they are tied for fourth in the league and most of them are warranted — as the penalties that are not being called against their opponents.  Last year, opponents drew 6.1 flags a game (16th in the league). This year, Seattle foes have been penalized 4.5 times per game, the fewest in the league.

The most egregiously officiated games have been (1) the Monday night win at Washington in which the Hawks were called for 13 penalties for 90 yards, including three that negated touchdowns by Percy Harvin, and the Redskins were whistled just three times for 30 yards; (2) the loss in St. Louis in which the Hawks were called 10 times for 89 yards while the Rams were set back only twice for 20 yards and the game ended on a controversial fumble; (3) the loss in Kansas City that very well could have been a win if Leavy and his crew had made the proper call in the end zone.

The Hawks had a lot of luck last season — better health, less drama, close wins. They haven’t been very lucky this season, and the lack of penalties on their opponents is just another example.

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