It is all about the ball

Coach Pete Carroll can’t make it any clearer as his Seahawks, who committed four turnovers last week, prepare to face a Chargers team that forced six turnovers last week.

It’s all about the ball. Or perhaps that should be: It’s all about the ball. Or even: IT’S ALL ABOUT THE BALL.

When it comes to Pete Carroll’s proven assortment of sayings, mantras and avenues to success, none is more important – or pertinent to Sunday’s game against the San Diego Chargers at Qwest Field.

“It’s just as clear as it can be, and it always has been,” the Seahawks coach said. “It’s been our main theme and our approach in our football as long as I can remember.”

All Carroll has to do to drive home the point to his players is point to the Seahawks’ first two games. In their opener, they had two turnovers – including an interception return for a touchdown by cornerback Marcus Trufant – while slapping the San Francisco 49ers with a 31-6 loss at Qwest Field. Last week in Denver, the Seahawks turned to ball over four times while dropping a 31-14 decision to the Broncos.

But the Chargers also can relate. They did not create a turnover in their season-opening loss to the Chiefs in Kansas City, then came up with six while routing the Jacksonville Jaguars 38-13 last week.

“It’s not just one side,” Carroll said. “It’s not just giving it up; it’s getting the ball, too. The defense can balance out a mistake or two by an offense by taking the football away.

“It’s the No. 1 emphasis in the program, which is why it hurt so much to see it be a big factor in the game last week.”

And that it was. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck had passes intercepted at the Broncos’ 4- and 9-yard lines in the first half and the Broncos’ 38 in the fourth quarter. Rookie Walter Thurmond muffed a punt in the first quarter that was recovered by the Broncos at the Seahawks’ 13-yard line to set up Denver’s first touchdown.

Those four turnovers created at least a 13-point swing in the game, not to mention wringing momentum from the drives that preceded Hasselbeck’s interceptions.

“Pete said it very plainly in our first meeting on Monday,” Hasselbeck said. “He said, ‘There’s really nothing else to say.’ Like if you can’t grasp that concept, then you’re not going to get what we’re all about. And we’re all about turnover ratio.”

And it’s not just the Seahawks and Chargers that have been tripped up by their own turnovers.

“You see that all across the NFL,” Hasselbeck said. “And you probably see it in college football and you probably see it in high school football. It’s really no secret.”

Of the 13 teams that lead their divisions, or share the lead, nine have plus ratings in the take-away/give-away ratio – with the Seahawks (minus-3) and Arizona Cardinals (minus-2) of the NFC West comprising half the have-not teams. Of the 13 teams that are plus-2 or better, their combined record is 18-8. Of the eight teams with 2-0 records, only the Houston Texans are on the minus side of the turnover line.

“It’s what we’re about all the time,” Hasselbeck said. “It’s what we focus on. Last week, we didn’t do a good job of it. But, we know that the Chargers are a good football team and they’ve been a good football team for years.

“It’s something that we’ve got to be aware of – they’re very opportunistic in the secondary and do a good job of stripping the ball, as well.”

Watching one team generate six turnovers in one game helped Carroll drive home his point this week, especially because that team was the Chargers.

“They were on fire last week,” Carroll said. “The ball was getting tipped. They knocked it out. Forced fumbles. They did everything.

“Their staff has always been determined to get the football, as well, and they’ve done a nice job over the years and they surely saw the benefits of it.”

Which, of course, Carroll turned into a benefit as he prepared his team this week.

“We have to do a great job at protecting and a great job at decision-making, or we’ll make it easy on them,” he said. “You can see around the league how obvious it is: The teams that turned the football over a bunch didn’t have a chance, and those that got close played a great football game in spite of it.

“It’s very difficult if you’re giving up the football. So, as always, it will continue to be a major emphasis for us.”

That’s why this week – even more than ever – it’s all about the ball.