By Danny O’Neil
Three things we learned:
1. The demise of Seattle’s defense has been greatly exaggerated.
Tennessee had one play that gained more than 20 yards, its longest run was an 11-yard scramble by quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Titans’ offense didn’t have the ball inside the Seattle 20 until the final 5 minutes.
So much for any defensive struggles, huh?
The past two road games may have shown the Seahawks were mortal on that side of the ball, but let’s not go thinking the defense is a cause for concern. The most impressive thing about Sunday’s game was that Seattle stifled the Titans’ running game, holding Chris Johnson to fewer than 3 yards per carry. When the Titans summoned the punting unit to kick on fourth-and-1 at the Seattle 43 in the final minute of the third quarter, it was the ultimate sign of respect.
2. Seattle’s offense made headway over the final three quarters.
The Seahawks’ first three possessions resulted in no points, two first downs and three punts. After that, the Seahawks never punted again, and while two of their final seven possessions resulted in turnovers, it made a pretty compelling case that Seattle’s offense was significantly improved.
Some of that was due to the return of center Max Unger. Even more of it was due to quarterback Russell Wilson, who may not have been perfect but was very impressive. Most significantly, he never forced anything and he was not intercepted in a game for only the second time this season.
3. Brandon Browner’s starting spot is kind of tenuous.
He was benched in the second quarter, and coach Pete Carroll was polite but firm: He wanted to give Browner a break after the Titans repeatedly targeted the man he was defending. It wasn’t the 32-yard completion to Kendall Wright that had the coaches concerned, though.
It was the incomplete pass to receiver Damien Williams in the end zone, which looked so very similar to the 29-yard touchdown Browner surrendered to T.Y. Hilton in Indianapolis in Week 5. The difference: Fitzpatrick wasn’t as accurate as Andrew Luck so Browner was pulled from the game for the second quarter to send a message.
“He answered it and went at it and did a nice job in the second half,” Carroll said.
Three things we’re still trying to figure out:
1. Why isn’t Wilson getting more passes to receivers on the outside?
The past two weeks it was a matter of pass protection. Wilson had more time on Sunday, consistently getting time to look downfield, and he still didn’t find options from his outside targets as Sidney Rice caught only two passes and Golden Tate didn’t have a reception for more than 12 yards.
Seattle’s offense is going to change significantly over the next month with tight end Zach Miller coming back this week and Percy Harvin eligible to return. Is that all it will take for Seattle’s offense to become more potent downfield?
2. Why is Seattle fumbling so often?
It’s all about the ball. That has been Carroll’s mantra since arriving as Seattle head coach. It was all about chasing the ball for Seattle on Sunday, though, as the Seahawks were chasing after their five fumbles, three of which they recovered.
“The ball was greased today,” Carroll said afterward.
The five fumbles was Seattle’s most in any game since December 2000. The Seahawks have fumbled 13 times in six games, losing six of those. It’s a real cause for concern because the Seahawks haven’t had this many fumbles through six games in any season since 1999. Seattle needs to do a better job of hanging onto the ball.
3. How did a three-point opportunity turn into an opponent’s seven-point play again?
The Seahawks went 15 years without having a field-goal attempt turn into an opponent’s touchdown. Now it has happened twice in the span of eight days. In Week 5 at Indianapolis it was a blocked kick, and this week it was a bobbled snap by safety Chris Maragos, the team’s former backup holder, followed by an ill-advised scramble that led to a fumble the Titans returned 77 yards. Over the past two games, the Seahawks have lined up for eight field-goal attempts, which have produced 18 points for the Seahawks and 14 points for opponents.