The Tennessee Titans fell flat on their face against one NFC West opponent in Week 1, and they possibly face an even tougher NFC West opponent in Week 2.
The Titans left much to be desired at Nissan Stadium last week, and there’s much to be corrected against a similar team on Sunday.
“We know last week wasn’t our standard,” running back Derrick Henry said. “…Guys are hungry to be better and just trying to put it together this week. …We don’t want to have that same result. We know we didn’t play to our standards and that we have to play better. Watch the film, you grow from it, come out here and try to get better every day leading up to Sunday.”
Things don’t bode well for Tennessee’s ground game, which struggled to get anything going against Arizona. Henry has his work cut out for him as Seattle’s run defense held Jonathan Taylor, who finished third in the NFL in rushing as a rookie last season, to just 56 yards rushing last week. Henry didn’t fare much better against the Cardinals, mustering just 58 yards on 17 carries. This could be the matchup to watch.
Conversely, Seattle pounded the Colts for 140 yards on the ground with 91 yards coming from starter Chris Carson.
While Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson doesn’t have the wheels Kyler Murray has, he’s still just as dangerous with his arm. Wilson completed 18 of 23 passes for 254 yards and four touchdowns last week, which is bad news for a Titans defense that allowed Murray to throw for 289 yards and four scores while running for another 20 yards and a touchdown.
The Titans will need all hands on deck to contain Wilson, which may be difficult if starting outside linebacker Bud Dupree can’t play. He missed practice on Wednesday and was a limited participant on Thursday.
“Russell (Wilson) does a great job of avoiding the rush and sliding,” Titans head coach Mike Vrabel said. “Third-and-nine, (Indianapolis) was coming with pressure and there was a crease in the B gap, and he took it. He has an excellent feel for being able to pump fake and get guys off their feet, but still keep his eyes downfield. He is excellent in the boot game, they ran a number of those that was successful last week as well.”
Here's a further look at Sunday’s matchup:
Why the Titans can win:
The Seattle secondary is far from the once-feared Legion of Boom of a few years ago. D.J. Reed and Tre Flowers – Seattle’s outside starting corners – did well to limit Indianapolis’ Michael Pittman Jr. and Zach Pascal to a combined seven receptions and 72 yards; however, A.J. Brown and Julio Jones are no Pittman Jr. and Pascal.
And while Ryan Tannehill had a very un-Tannehill like game against Arizona (three turnovers, worst QBR and second-lowest passer rating as a Titan), it’s rare for him to follow up a poor performance with another poor performance.
After all the fuss Tannehill and Vrabel made about not getting Brown and Jones involved in the passing game last week, expect to see a healthy dose of both star receivers this week.
“You try to design plays for guys that you think will be in good positions, but sometimes that doesn’t always work,” Vrabel said. “I think that is up to the quarterback to progress through and not to force it. We are not going to just throw it into a team meeting just for the sake of saying we are going to try to get this guy the football. I think that is important, how the quarterback distributes that ball. He is in charge of the football, and he has reads that takes him to certain places on every play.”
Added Tannehill: “I think I just have to take the opportunities when they arise…I go through my read and my progression to what the defense is dictating, just like I have at any other point here in Tennessee. We added a piece on the outside (Jones), but my process doesn’t change as far as getting those guys that ball.”
Why the Seahawks can win:
The Cardinals exposed all of the areas the Titans were deficient in last week. Henry was held under 60 yards for the just the fourth time since 2019 and Tennessee was limited to just one play-action pass last week.
Taylor Lewan was embarrassed by Arizona’s defensive line and things may get even more brutal against Seattle if Lewan isn’t in a good headspace. Against the Colts, eight of Seattle’s nine defensive linemen registered at least two QB pressures against Carson Wentz. He was also hurried seven times and hit four times. With as much as Tennessee’s offensive line struggled against Arizona, the Titans may have to use more two tight end sets or employ Jeremy McNichols as an extra blocker to help Tannehill out.
“They are good on all levels, they are multiple in their scheme, the front – they play a lot of guys up front, they play hard,” Vrabel said. “You know Wagner and Adams are solid up the middle, leaders of their defense. The inside guys are big, they are stout, they are hard to move. (Indianapolis) tried to move them a couple times in short-yardage situations and it was difficult. They play hard, they are active on the edge and really disruptive.”
If pass protection continues to be Tennessee’s Achilles heel in Week 2, Seattle’s defense could eat Tannehill alive. The 32-year-old was pressured on 31 percent of his drop backs last week – sixth-highest among all QBs – and he had just 2.4 seconds in the pocket.
With Wagner and Adams roaming the middle of the field, Seattle could dial up even more blitzes than the 12 it threw at Wentz last week.
“I think you can pretty much count on every year that Seattle’s defense is going to be pretty good,” Tannehill said. “It has been, I don’t know, the last 10 or 12 years that they have been solid just about every single year…You look at this team, they have length on the edges, flying linebackers, Bobby Wagner obviously one of the best linebackers in the game he is flying around, Jamal Adams is making plays all over the place, he is aggressive, he is a great tackler, a great pressure guy, the corners cover well, so we will definitely have our hands full this week.”
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