Time for our weekly day-after review of our five things to watch, and how big of an impact they had on the game:
1, Turnovers: For the second straight week, Seattle didn’t win the turnover battle. But the Seahawks also didn’t lose it against a team that came into the game plus-eight in turnover margin. While the ball seemed to be bouncing everywhere, each team ultimately had just two turnovers. Each team turned its turnovers into seven points. Seattle’s came in the fourth quarter, a touchdown following a Richard Sherman interception, that ultimately helped swing the game toward the Seahawks.
2, Third downs: The Seahawks talked frankly this week about the need to fix their issues on third down — they had converted just six-of-25 in the past two games. The Titans, meanwhile, had been especially salty on defense on third downs, allowing teams to convert only 18-of-64 for the season, good for 28.1 percent and third in the NFL, coming into the game. By those measures, then, it was an improvement for Seattle as the Seahawks were 4-of-12, and 4-of-9 after the scoreless first quarter (and one of the failures was the botched field goal, which came on third down and technically goes down as a failed third-down conversion). Seattle, though, will need to do better as it now hits the road for two straight games.
3, The running game: Seattle entered the game with a big edge on paper in this area, and they lived up to it on the field, outrushing the titans 151-66 — an average of 4.6-to-3.3 per attempt. That proved a huge difference in the outcome as the Titans could never get a consistent running game going to keep the Seattle defense honest. Chris Johnson, once one of the top running backs in the league but who appears on the downside of his career, had just 33 yards on 12 carries with a long of eight. In a play that drew some controversy in Tennessee, the Titans took out Johnson to give Darius Reynaud the ball on a third-and-one at the Seattle 43 late in the third quarter. The play went nowhere and the Titans opted to punt. Seattle immediately scored a field goal, then got an interception, to pull away. Seattle, meanwhile got 77 yards on 21 carries from Marshawn Lynch, and what is now becoming a typical game from Russell Wilson, who largely out of scrambles got 61 yards on 10 attempts.
4, Sidney Rice: Rice came into the game with 10 catches on the season, five coming against Jacksonville.He had two receptions on four targets against the Titans, one of the catches a 24-yarder that set up Seattle’s final touchdown, the play on which he tiptoed along the sidelines as he fell out of bounds (pictured above in a Bettina Hansen photo). It wasn’t the breakthrough day people might have hoped for from Rice. Ultimately, though, Seattle put up decent numbers against a pass defense that came into the game with good numbers, as Seattle had 257 passing yards. The return of Max Unger helped the passing game, and the return of Zach Miller should help it a little more this week.
5, The re-made linebacking corps: As we wrote before the game: “Nobody seems concerned about the shuffling in the linebacking corps made necessary due to the injury to MLB Bobby Wagner. That means K.J. Wright shifts from WLB to the middle, with Malcolm Smith going from SLB to WLB and Bruce Irvin getting his first start at SLB.” And it turned out that the new-look linebacking corps did just fine. Wright finished with a team-high seven tackles while Smith had four and Irvin two. More important are the overall numbers which showed the Titans getting just 223 yards and no offensive touchdowns. Granted, it came against a backup quarterback. But the defense did what it had to do Sunday.