What Seahawks need to do vs Titans to build on Week 1 performance
The Seahawks opened 2021 in a fairly uncharacteristic way, at least when compared to their more recent seasons. They scored touchdowns on their first two series against the Colts in Week 1, the defense stood strong despite an early drive-sustaining penalty, and Seattle left Indianapolis with a breezy 28-16 win.
After that, though, what do you do for an encore?
Seattle now goes into its first regular season game in front of its own fans for the first time since 2019 in a big home opener Sunday against the Tennessee Titans. While Tennessee was blown out by the Arizona Cardinals 38-13 in Week 1, the Titans are still tough competition boasting a fearsome running game led by Derrick Henry, who has been the NFL leader in rushing yards, rushing yards per game and rushing touchdowns in each of the past two years.
For 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake and Stacy, a big question for the Seahawks in Week 2 is how they can build on what they did in the opener and avoid a misstep after such an encouraging debut. Here’s a look at what hosts Jake Heaps and Stacy Rost agreed upon as keys for Seattle.
1. Maintain offensive balance
In the Seahawks’ first game under new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron, an emphasis on sharing the load between the running game and passing game was evident. Running back Chris Carson was handed the ball 16 times and rushed for 97 yards, his highest single-game total since Week 16 of the 2019 season, while quarterback Russell Wilson completed 18 of 23 passes for 254 yards and four touchdowns, with seven different receivers making a catch and five making multiple catches.
Heaps explained that for Seattle to open up its offense more, that balance has to continue.
“The big thing that I want to see them be able to build off that performance is to maintain balance in terms of the running game and the passing game,” he said. “For them to work and complement one another I think will be really key to be able to show the strength of this offense. The one area that I do believe that they will have more opportunity to dominate the game in is going to be in the passing game.
“It would not surprise me in the least bit to see this offense have a big performance, Russell Wilson have a big performance through the air. He threw four touchdowns last week, but it was more of an efficient game where he had less (passing) attempts than they had rushing attempts, so I anticipate maybe that number increasing based on where the strengths are and where the matchups are in this game.”
The Seahawks relied much more on the passing game in the first half of the 2020 season than ever before in Wilson’s career, but it led to struggles after the midway point as defenses found an answer. That’s why Heaps believes it’s crucial for Seattle to still get Carson the ball regularly.
“I do want to see them be able to maintain that offensive firepower through the passing game yet don’t forget about that running game, don’t forget about Chris Carson and keep that ground game very involved, very much in-sync with what you’re doing,” he said. “That’s what ended up happening last year – oftentimes when the offense was performing at a high level, it was so heavily on the passing game and they did not adequately keep the running game, keep Chris Carson involved to balance everything out.”
2. Win the battle on third down
Seattle’s offense ranked 27th in the NFL in converting on third down in 2020 at 38.4%, and the defense didn’t fare much better, ranking 26th in the league in allowing opponents to convert on third down at a rate of 45.4% of the time. The Seahawks got off to a much better start against the Colts in Week 1, however, going 4 for 9 on third down on offense (44%) and holding the Colts to 5 of 13 (38.5%).
Rost wants to see Seattle keep that up, especially since the Titans went 5 for 14 (35.7%) on third down and allowed the Cardinals to convert on 7 of 13 (53.9%) third downs.
“The Seahawks were great with third down conversions in their game against Indianapolis, and meanwhile the defense also held Indianapolis to about 38%, which is just below what league average would be,” she said. “The Titans’ defense allowed 54% conversions on third down and four touchdowns on five trips to the red zone from the Cardinals. It would be a horrible outing for (Tennessee) to repeat those numbers, but it’s one area where Seattle struggled (in 2020). It’s very basic and very simple, but a key to success – move the sticks.”
Added Heaps: “Great offenses convert on third down. Great quarterbacks convert on third down. You have to be able to beat the unique pressures that they bring, the unique coverages that they bring on third down. That is the mark of a great offense, so you’re 100% right to point to that statistic.”
You can hear the full conversation in the final segment of the podcast at this link or in the player below.