By Danny O’Neil
It may be true that no win is easy in the NFL, but Seattle made Sunday’s more difficult than it should have been.
In fact, the Seahawks tried to give this one away, allowing a touchdown on a field-goal attempt for the second consecutive week, fumbling the ball twice – one of which Tennessee recovered – and having to sweat out some uncertainty over whether kicker Steven Hauschka had been knocked into next week while attempting a second-quarter tackle on a kickoff return.
But that just made Seattle’s 20-13 victory over Tennessee a little more dramatic. The Seahawks outgained the Titans by more than 150 yards, quarterback Russell Wilson passed for 257 yards, ran for 61 and Marshawn Lynch scored the team’s two touchdowns.
As for Tennessee, the fact that slow-footed Ryan Fitzpatrick was the team’s leading rusher serves as a pretty clear summary of the Titans’ offensive performance. Seattle held the opposing offense without a touchdown for the first time this season.
The significance: Seattle remained undefeated at home and stayed atop the NFC West even though its offense continued to struggle. The defense did not allow a touchdown for the first time this season, the Titans’ only trip to the end zone coming courtesy of special teams.
Play of the game: The longest pass of Seattle’s season started out surprisingly short and amazingly open. Wilson rolled out to his right off a play-action fake early in the fourth quarter, evaded a pass rusher and waited before seeing Lynch all by himself on the left sideline. The result was a 55-yard gain – Seattle’s longest pass of the season – that put the Seahawks in position for a go-ahead touchdown.
Turning point: The Titans trailed by three points and had the ball at their own 20 when Fitzpatrick decided to punt on first down. Well, that’s not quite true. He actually decided to throw the ball deep to Nate Washington, the Titans’ top receiver who was isolated against cornerback Richard Sherman, who intercepted the pass. It was Sherman’s third interception of the season.
Player of the game: Lynch led Seattle in rushing yards with 77, receiving yards with 78 and scored both of Seattle’s touchdowns.
The good: Wilson was not picked off for only the second game this year. He also followed up his career-high of 102 yards rushing last week by running for 61 yards against the Titans. The Seahawks went for it on fourth down in the second quarter, Lynch scoring on a 1-yard run with 2:41 left in the first half. It was Seattle’s first touchdown in 63:16, a drought that stretched back to the second quarter of the Week 5 loss at Indianapolis.
The bad: Seattle gave up a touchdown when it was attempting a field goal for the second consecutive week. Last week, it was a blocked kick in Indianapolis that led to a 61-yard return. This time, it was a botched hold that aborted a 22-yard field-goal attempt only to have the backup holder, Chris Maragos, scramble, have the ball stripped and returned 77 yards for a touchdown with no time left in the first half. Seattle had gone 15 years without allowing the opponent to score off a Seahawks’ field-goal attempt. It has now happened in successive games. The Seahawks faced their first first-quarter deficit of the season after the Titans took a 3-0 lead on Rob Bironas’ field goal with 5:16 left in the opening period. Sidney Rice had one catch in the first three quarters and then fumbled the ball away, Seattle’s second turnover.
The ugly: Hauschka’s attempt to tackle Tennessee returner Darius Reynaud. Hauschka couldn’t even be called a speed bump because Reynaud never slowed down, hitting Hauschka so hard that Seattle’s kicker suffered a bloody nose and had to be evaluated for a concussion. Seattle failed to convert its first three third downs of the game, continuing a recent trend. Seattle was 2 for 12 on third down in Indianapolis. The Seahawks’ first two third-down conversions against Tennessee came on scrambles by Wilson. Brandon Browner was replaced by Walter Thurmond at right cornerback in the second quarter. Browner returned to the starting unit in the third quarter.
Go figure: Eleven. That’s how many consecutive home games Seattle has won, the longest active streak in the NFL. If Seattle beats Tampa Bay at home on Nov. 3, the Seahawks will match the franchise record for consecutive home victories.
Seattle: FB Spencer Ware, DE Benson Mayowa, QB B.J. Daniels, TE Zach Miller, RT Breno Giacomini, LB Bobby Wagner, T Caylin Hauptmann. Tennessee: QB Jake Locker, RB Shonn Greene, CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson, LB Zaviar Gooden, LB Patrick Bailey, C Brian Schwenke, T Byron Stingily.