The Seattle Seahawks lost their first game of the season this past Sunday, getting knocked off by the Indianapolis Colts by the score of 34-28. The Seahawks now must focus on this week's game against the Tennessee Titans.
After the loss, the talk coming from the team predictably turned to preparing for the next game at hand. The players and coaches didn't seem particularly interested in dwelling on the loss, though a few members of the team indicated that the loss would motivate them to get better.
Pete Carroll called the big plays given up by the defense a "wake up shot," according to John Boyle of the Everett Herald.
Pete Carroll said the big plays his defense gave up vs. Indy, "Might have been a little wake-up shot there."— John Boyle (@johnpboyle) October 9, 2013
Free safety Earl Thomas joined in and oddly used nearly identical words, according to Tacoma News Tribune Columnist Dave Boling.
Earl Thomas on loss: It's a wake-up call ... glad it happened early in the year— Dave Boling (@DaveBoling) October 9, 2013
The problem is that teams coached by Pete Carroll haven't traditionally played better immediately following a loss. They haven't exactly played significantly worse either, but the idea that the loss to the Colts is going to motivate the Seahawks this week against the Titans does seem to run counter to the historical data.
Games After Losses
Here is how the Seahawks teams have fared over the last three seasons in the games immediately following a loss. The team's averages are given for each year for comparison.
Pro Football Reference
Pro Football Reference
Pro Football Reference
The winning percentage after losses is higher in each year than it is over the course of the season. This is to be expected though, since examining only the games after losses removes some losses from the data set. That difference in winning percentage turns out not to be statistically significant.
More importantly, the Seahawks saw their average point differential shift downward in the weeks following losses in each of the three seasons under Carroll. This suggests that the team played slightly worse in games following losses than did on average over the season.
Keep in mind that selecting the subset of data in this way removes losses from data. The downward shift in point differential, despite examining a subset of games with less losses, is quite significant.
This problem isn't unique to just Pete Carroll's Seahawks teams. The data from his time at the University of Southern California reveals the same trend.
Carroll's USC teams also tended to play tighter games in the weeks following losses.
Perhaps the most important thing to be learned from the data is that the decrease in point differential didn't affect the team's ability to win games. Even though both Carroll's Seahawks teams and USC teams didn't play as well in these games, they were still able to win at the same rate that they did over the rest of the season.
The ability of Pete Carroll's team's to get back into the win column after losses has helped the Seahawks avoid long losing streaks. For instance, the Seahawks only lost back-to-back games once during the 2012 season.
In Pete Carroll's three-plus year tenure as the head coach of the Seahawks, Seattle has only had seven multi-game losing streaks. That is impressive when compared to most of his NFL peers.
It is also important to note that the lack of losing streaks under Pete Carroll isn't just a factor of the Seahawks being a winning team. Bill Belichick's New England Patriots teams have had few losing steaks, but that's mostly because stringing together multiple losses in a row is improbable when the team only loses an average of four games per season.
The Seahawks under Carroll's leadership have had just one winning season thus far. Both the 2010 and 2011 seasons ended with the Seahawks having 7-9 records. The lack of numerous losing streaks given the overall mediocre records in these seasons is a significant trend.
At USC, Carroll's success in this area is even more pronounced. During his entire tenure at Southern California, Carroll's teams only had one multi-game losing streak. That happened way back in 2001, which was Carroll's first year at the school.
What We Can Learn
The data here is incredibly consistent and suggests that we won't be witnessing a suddenly more dominant Seattle team on Sunday. The idea that last week's loss is going to motivate the Seahawks to dominate this week's game against the Titans defies Pete Carroll's history.
If anything, it should be expected that the Seahawks will almost certainly win this weekend, but that the game will be closer that the team's statistical averages this year. According to NFL.com, the Seahawks score 27.4 points per game and give up 16.2 points per game, for a differential of just over 11 points.
Putting everything together, the data suggests that the Seahawks should win by somewhere around nine points this week against the Titans.*
*Given the author's history of making predictions, it's probably safe to bet on anything happening except Seattle winning by nine on Sunday.