Renton – Forcing turnovers has been the key to success for both the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers this season.
San Francisco leads the league in takeaways with 35, and the Niners also top the NFL with a plus-25 turnover differential.
“It’s a product of hustle, players’ ability and scheme – all of those things,” San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh said. “Much like Seattle, you watch them on tape and you can continually see their guys in the right places with the right leverage. And therefore they make the interception, or they make the tip or the deflection, or make the hit that causes the fumble.”
The Seahawks have forced 18 turnovers in the past six games, most in the league in that time frame. San Francisco is second during that span with 16. Seattle has a plus-8 turnover differential this season, forcing 29 turnovers and turning those miscues into 97 points.
Seattle finished with a minus-9 turnover ratio last season, tied for 27th in the league.
“It’s absolutely the No. 1 philosophy in how you play the game for us,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said about his team’s recent turnover streak. “It’s all about the ball, and guys are doing it.”
One of the reasons for Seattle’s success creating turnovers has been the offense’s ability to get ahead. The Seahawks have been ahead or tied at the end of the first half in five of the past six games, which allows the defensive linemen to pin their ears back and rush the passer.
San Francisco’s about-face in the turnover department has a lot to do with the play of quarterback Alex Smith. The Utah product finished with 12 turnovers in 10 starts last season, but this year Smith has thrown only five interceptions while tossing 16 touchdown passes.
Defensively, the Niners lead the league in forced fumbles with 14, and are tied for second in the league with Seattle in interceptions with 21.
“They do a great job of mixing and matching coverages, and those guys have been catching the ball,” said San Francisco defensive lineman Justin Smith, who has three forced fumbles this season.
NEW BOY FOR BIG RED
After an excused absence, Seahawks defensive tackle Red Bryant retuned to practice Thursday. Bryant and wife Janelle had a healthy baby boy, Joseph Brooks Bryant, who arrived Wednesday evening weighing 6 pounds, 15 ounces and 22 inches long.
Janelle Bryant is the daughter of Jacob Green, the all-time leader in sacks for the Seahawks.
“It’s a special moment,” Bryant said. “The best moment I’ve had in my life. His mom is doing great and my son is doing great, and I’m about to rush out of here and go see him. I can’t wait to go see him again.”
Bryant’s son was a little under Carroll’s first estimate of 17 pounds.
“We were a little bit off on our initial report,” Carroll said. “We were all picturing like a 2-year-old was born.”
Bryant said his son is named in honor of his godmother Sue Brooks, who died two years ago.
So, will his son go by Red Jr.?
“It’s probably going to come with the territory,” Bryant said. “I’m not going to push nothing on him. I want him to have his own identity. But I would be surprised if people didn’t call him Little Red.”
Carroll said that receiver Doug Baldwin, who missed practice on Thursday with a sore ankle, is expected to be ready for Saturday’s game against San Francisco.
Baldwin tweaked his ankle midway through practice on Wednesday.
“He couldn’t practice today, so we’re going to rest him until the weekend,” Carroll said. “He just turned his ankle a little bit yesterday, but we think he’s going to make it. He’ll be all right.”
Defensive tackle Clinton McDonald (concussion) returned to practice as a limited participant. Linebacker Malcolm Smith (concussion) and cornerback Kennard Cox (hamstring) did not practice.
Carroll said that McDonald has a chance to play, but the other two will be game-time decisions.
Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson (pectoral), offensive lineman Robert Gallery (pelvis) and linebacker David Hawthorne (knee) were full participants.
Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 Eric.email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks
San Francisco at Seattle, 1:15 p.m., Ch. 13, 710- AM, 97.3-FM