Pete Carroll doesn't get too wrapped around statistics, other than the bottom line of the final score. But there are two stats that he plays closer attention to than others.
Turnover margin. And third-down efficiency.
In the San Diego last weekend the Chargers converted 10 of 17 third downs into first downs. That kept the Seahawks' defense on the field for 42:15 of the game's 60 minutes, and we all know how that turned out for Seattle.
It was just Seattle's seventh loss in 34 regular-season and postseason games, dating to a defeat at Detroit in Week 8 of the 2012 season. In those seven losses, the Seahawks have allowed teams to convert a combined 50 of 97 third downs. That's 51.5 pecent -- or about 20-plus percent more than any defense finds acceptable. On offense in those seven losses, Seattle has converted 25 of 76 combined third downs. That disparity of 18.6 percent between stopping teams on third downs to end drives and extending their own drives on offense is a key reason in the rare times the Seahawks have lost the last two years.
And stopping Peyton Manning and the Broncos on third downs Sunday at CenturyLink Field -- primarily with a four-man pass rush, as they did seven months ago in the Meadowlands -- will go a long way to determining if the Seahawks win the Super Bowl rematch, too.
Asked yesterday about how his defense played last weekend in San Diego, Carroll said: "I don’t think we felt like we played like we can. The third-down emphasis was really the story, and they did a great job on third down against us an able to keep the club moving. So we got a lot of plays on a very difficult day so it just added up.
"They’re really anxious to bounce back and show a really good game. It just happens to be the Denver Broncos and Peyton, so it’s going to be hard."
--For today's News Tribune Richard Sherman was, for me, the easy choice to feature. It's not often an NFL player calls the player he just opposed "little guys" who were "just there" wanting to get their names "in the paper." Better than that, how often can a writer get an All-Pro and a llama in the same NFL story?
Then again, there's only one Sherman in the league.
--My notebook story is on offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell explaining how only getting 4o offensive plays in San Diego ruined the game plan of using Marshawn Lynch on more rushes. I'd be surprised if he doesn't carry the ball at least 20 times against Denver. Put it this way: if he doesn't, that means Sunday is going way south for Seattle.
--Columnist Dave Boling writes how Manning and Broncos coach John Fox understandably aren't thrilled to rehash much of February's Super Bowl. I'm impressed my colleague created any story off of what little Manning and Fox had to say of value on a particular bland and guarded pair of conference calls with Seattle media yesterday. Then again, being on the business end of 43-8 in the sport's biggest game tends to dampen the enthusiasm and insight.
Truth is, the Broncos and to a lesser degree the Seahawks are different teams than seven months ago. Denver went on something of a free-agent spree, signing cornerback Aqib Talib and pass-rushing end DeMarcus Ware and replacing ousted Champ Bailey with Chris Harris in the secondary to soup up the defense, plus swapping out deeper threat Emmanuel Sanders for Eric Decker at wide receiver and getting left tackle Ryan Clady back on offense. USA Today details these differences here.