CLEVELAND -- For Pete Carroll's Seattle Seahawks, every day of the work week has a theme: Tell the Truth Monday. Competition Wednesday. Turnover Thursday. No Repeat Friday.
Thursday is all about protecting the ball on offense and taking it away on defense, and there was no debating which side won in their most recent Thursday practice. As best as K.J. Wright could recall, Seattle's defense forced three consecutive takeaways that day via Bobby Wagner, Tedric Thompson and Jadeveon Clowney.
"It's crazy because we got a lot of turnovers this week in practice, and it just carried over throughout the game," Wright said. "Whenever you're on the road in hostile environments, you've got to bring your defense, and I think we did a pretty good job today."
Did they ever -- eventually -- with four takeaways Sunday to help spark a 32-28 comeback win over the Cleveland Browns.
The Seahawks' defense allowed touchdowns on the Browns' first three possessions -- the first of which was aided by a short field -- and put Seattle behind 20-6 in the second quarter. That's when Wagner, Seattle's defensive captain, gathered his unit on the sideline. He took a page out of Bill Belichick's playbook with a message to his teammates to "do your job, and do not try to do too much."
"We just needed to wake up," safety Bradley McDougald said. "We needed that spark, and guys needed to hear it. Once he lit that flame, I felt like we started to get some stops, and we just started playing our ball."
Tre Flowers recorded his first career interception on the following Browns possession. On the next one, Thompson got his second in as many games when he came down with a Baker Mayfield throw in the end zone that was knocked into the air by Shaquill Griffin. That takeaway preceded a Seahawks touchdown drive, as did Ziggy Ansah's recovery of a fumble that he forced. Wright finished off the Browns when he picked off a Mayfield pass that bounced off Browns running back Dontrell Hilliard's hands.
The Seahawks allowed 406 yards of offense, fell behind by 14 points in the first half and didn't so much as record an official hit on Mayfield, let alone sack him. That tells you how significant their four takeaways were. Seattle finished plus-three on the day, with C.J. Prosise losing a fumble for Seattle.
"That's something we work on. That's something we focus on, and today, guys were on it, and I would definitely say that was the difference-maker today," McDougald said. "A lot of those plays get overlooked, but those are game-changing plays, those are big plays in those drives because we were bleeding a lot of the time, and that stopped it right then and there."
The Seahawks entered Sunday with five turnovers and eight takeaways for a plus-three ratio, tied for seventh in the NFL. With their win over Cleveland, they're 62-13 since Carroll took over in 2010 when winning the turnover battle. No wonder he has a day of the week dedicated to it.
"You guys don't know how much we emphasize the football," he said. "It's the source of our philosophy: It's all about the ball. We are plus-three going in, and we take pride in that, but we hadn't had a big day yet. To come out plus-three today was really important because we know everything follows the success from getting the football. Our guys are committed to that, and we basically do an incredible job of taking care of the football. We're doing it again this season. We are on a good track. We can do better, but we're on it again. I was talking about bunches, and they come in bunches, and today was the day for that."
The win gives the Seahawks their third 5-1 start in franchise history. The most recent time was 2013, when they finished 13-3 and won Super Bowl XLVIII. That team led the NFL with 39 takeaways and had a plus-20 turnover differential. Carroll will tell you that wasn't a coincidence.
It wasn't Sunday, either.
"That's definitely what we emphasize," McDougald said. "Every Thursday, every day, it's all about the ball. That's the saying ... and today showed why. It wasn't the best game stat-wise for us, but plays like that changed the game."