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The Seattle Seahawks Defense Relies on a Brazen Tactic: Rampant Interference

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The Seahawks have grabby talons!!!

Seahawks play dirty!

The Seattle Seahawks—the favorites to make the Super Bowl out of the NFC—employ an exasperating defensive game plan: They blitz rarely and drop an army of defenders into pass coverage. And those defenders mug, obstruct and foul opposing receivers on practically every play.

Quietly, the Seahawks have achieved a 13-3 record and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs by exploiting a loophole: NFL referees are reluctant to throw endless flags for pass interference and defensive holding, even if defenses deserve them.

"They look at it and say, 'We may get called for one but not 10,'" said Mike Pereira, a former NFL vice president of officiating who is now a Fox analyst.


"They just seem to not care about the rules," said New York Giants wide receiver Louis Murphy, whose team was routed 23-0 by Seattle this season.


The Seahawks had the most pass-interference penalties in the league this season—13, or nearly one per game. Defensive pass interference, a spot foul that comes with an automatic first down, is called when a defender impedes a receiver while the ball is in the air. If the ball isn't airborne, grabbing a receiver more than five yards downfield merits a defensive-holding penalty. The Seahawks have 10 of those this season.

There is a certain brilliance to this approach: Since 2001, nine teams have committed 20 or more of these penalties (including this season's Seahawks). None of them had a losing record, and most of them won big.

So many pass-interference plays meant that many more of them went uncalled, choking the life out of opposing offenses in a pass-dependent league—a big advantage for Seattle's physical brand of defense, led by hulking cornerbacks such as 6-foot-3 star Richard Sherman.


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