Titans vs. Seahawks: Breaking Down Tennessee's Game Plan
Not an easy game, to be sure, but winning isn't impossible. The Titans just have to go in with a clear idea of what they need to do.
Because of the amount of noise that the Seahawks fans can generate, the Titans are going to have to keep things simple on offense. Of course, that's easier said than done; Seattle has a great defense, and if the Titans become predictable, it'll shut down everything they try to do.
Hopefully, the Titans can start running the ball with authority. They spent a lot of money and a first-round pick upgrading the offensive line, so they should be able to get the ground game going.
Seattle's defense, as good as it is, isn't particularly effective against the run. It currently ranks 20th in the NFL in run defense, so if the Titans can get the game going on the ground, they'll be able to sustain drives.
Seattle has also forced eight fumbles so far this season, so Chris Johnson will need to keep the ball tucked away from the prying hands of Seattle defenders.
The Seahawks already have some very good defensive ends, and now they'll return outside linebacker Bruce Irvin, so they'll probably do a good job of sealing off the edge. Johnson has only been effective when he gets to the edge, so the Titans may need to switch in Jackie Battle on occasion to keep the run game going between the tackles.
Against the pass, Seattle is one of the best units in the league. Between Richard Sherman, Brandon Browner, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, there isn't a lot of weakness to exploit in its defensive backfield.
Because of this, Ryan Fitzpatrick must settle in and take what the defense gives him. If he tries to force a pass against the Seattle defensive backs, he'll end up giving the ball away.
Speaking of takeaways, ball security will be of the utmost importance. The Seahawks are currently tied with the Kansas City Chiefs for the most takeaways in the NFL with 15. It was the turnovers that killed the Titans against the Chiefs, so if Tennessee can concentrate on eliminating those, then it'll take away a lot of what makes Seattle's defense so great.
On defense, the Titans should be feeling confident. The Seahawks feature marquee running back Marshawn Lynch, but the Titans have already faced Arian Foster and Jamaal Charles, and their run defense still ranks 16th in total yards, 13th in touchdowns surrendered and third in forced fumbles.
The Titans do their best defensive work when they can stuff the run on first downs. Forcing opposing offenses into 3rd-and-long situations is one thing that made the Titans so effective against the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Jets.
Seattle's pass attack is not very good, only ranking one spot above the Titans' own passing game. If Tennessee can begin the game forcing Russell Wilson into 3rd-and-longs, then dial up the pressure, they should be able to limit him easily.
But all of that depends on stuffing the run on early downs, which the Titans didn't do very well against Kansas City. Tennessee also has to worry about what Wilson can do with his legs. Wilson rushed for almost 500 yards in 2012 and has averaged 5.8 yards per carry so far this year.
If the Titans can stop the run, that should lead to them more effectively stopping the pass. Keeping Lynch in check has to be priority No. 1.
In passing situations, the Titans should stick to zone defense most of the time. Since Seattle doesn't boast a premier wide receiver, sticking with the zone ought to be simple enough.
Alterraun Verner has been creating turnovers like crazy, and he excels in zone coverage. Bernard Pollard seems to do better in zone as well, and the Titans will want their defensive backs to be comfortable.
In a game that is likely to come down to who wins the turnover battle, putting your playmakers in situations where they can make plays will be important.
On special teams, the Titans need to just stop the bleeding. They can't realistically expect a sudden turnaround by the time they play Seattle, but what they absolutely must do is not make big errors.
Who knows what could have happened if the Titans hadn't surrendered that early touchdown to the Chiefs on a muffed punt return or made critical field goals.
Getting a big kick or punt return can help a lot in a game, but it's not essential. When the Titans haven't even been covering the bases on special teams, they shouldn't be trying for big plays.
The Seahawks and the Chiefs are similar teams. Both feature excellent defenses with vicious pass rushes, solid offensive lines, very good running backs and mobile QBs.
The things the Titans didn't execute correctly against the Chiefs could be the same things that cause problems against the Seahawks. The game will likely come down to which team can force more turnovers.
If the Titans can win the turnover battle, they can win the game. It'll be tough, but that ought to be the game plan.
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