The team that benefited most demonstrably from NFL replacement officials might also be benefiting from their departure.
"I don’t know why this is the case," Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told 710ESPN Seattle recently, "but since the replacement officials have been gone, we’re like the fourth-fewest penalties in the NFL."
Tied for 12th-fewest, actually, but Carroll wasn't far off. Officials have flagged Seattle for 5.8 fewer penalties per game since regular officials returned following Week 3. That is the largest gross reduction in the NFL.
"We took a boatload in the first [few] games," Carroll said, "but we've really improved on the other end of it."
Seattle, having benefited from replacement officials' controversial ruling to beat Green Bay in Week 3, has subsequently cut penalties for false starts, delays of game and defensive pass interference.
Seattle has averaged 1.25 false starts per game under regular officials, down from three per game with replacements on duty. Delay penalties are down from 1.3 per game to zero per game. Defensive pass interference penalties are down from one per game to zero.
Those three penalty types account for 4.1 of the 5.8-penalty per game reduction displayed in the chart from ESPN Stats & Information.
Most of the other penalties are relatively flat. Unnecessary roughness calls are up from one total through three games to five over the subsequent four.
Overall, though, the team is trending in the right direction.
This might have nothing to do with replacement officials. Seattle played only three games with replacements. There have been only four games since. That's not enough to go on.
Perhaps Jim Harbaugh could seek some clarification.