Titans vs. Seahawks: Takeaways from Tennessee's 20-13 Loss to Seattle
The Titans certainly played better than the 11 point spread in Seattle's favor thought they would. And when you're playing the Seahawks on the road, it's going to be tough to do much of anything. The stadium is designed to be loud, they're a good team and flying most of the way across the country can't be without drawbacks.
Even so, the Titans gave a good effort but couldn't come through in the end.
Like last week against the Chiefs, you have to wonder what could have been were Locker in the lineup, but hypothetical wins don't matter much to anyone.
Here are seven takeaways from the Titans' loss.
1. Decent Special Teams Play Could Make a Big Difference
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The consistently poor performance of Tennessee's special teams has cost the Titans a lot. It may have even cost them a couple of games at this point.
Last week against the Chiefs, Damian Williams accidentally touched the ball on a punt before in went into the endzone, where the Chiefs recovered the ball for a touchdown.
In Week 3 against the Chargers, the Titans had 12 penalties, most of them on the special teams squad.
In Week 1 against the Steelers, Darius Reynaud accidentally took the kickoff into the endzone himself, giving the Steelers an immediate safety.
Against the Seahawks, Brett Kern miffed a punt, then attempted to pass the ball while falling down. This gave the Seahawks excellent field position that they probably would've capitalized on were it not for an even bigger mistake by their punter, who was filling in as the kicker.
The Titans' special teams unit has been awful this season. There has been at least one big mistake in half the games they've played and lots of minor mistakes in all of them.
Something has to be done about this. Were it not for the mistake against the Chiefs, they could have won. Ditto for the Seahawks.
2. Ryan Fitzpatrick Is Going to Produce Some Turnovers
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I don't want to take away from what Ryan Fitzpatrick has done well, but it's becoming clearer that he's not as good a quarterback as Jake Locker.
In two weeks, Fitzpatrick has thrown four interceptions, fumbled four times and his completion percentage sits at just over 50 percent.
One of the problems he's had is that he's faced two of the toughest defenses in the league in Kansas City and Seattle, but another problem is that he won't take what the defense gives him.
Fitzpatrick has a pretty big arm and likes to air it out, but that playing style won't work well with the team the Titans have built. Their offense is designed to hold onto the ball, win the turnover battle and outlast the other team.
When you throw deep, you do occasionally come away with big plays, but more often than not you end up with an incomplete pass or a turnover.
Fitzpatrick is doing what Locker did a lot of last year—he's going for the big play way too often. If the Titans are going to beat many other teams going forward, he's got to change that.
3. Most of Tennessee's Games Will Be Close
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When you build a team on defense and time of possession, there are going to be a lot of close games.
As a fan, it can be frustrating to watch your team barely lose to good teams for two weeks in a row, and it can be nerve-wracking to see them squeak by against a team that they've clearly outplayed.
But that's just how the Titans are built. They want to keep the ball on the ground when they can, take what they're given in the passing game and trust the defense to keep the game close.
It's a formula that can work, but don't expect the Titans to win by double digits too often. On the bright side, they won't lose that way either.
4. The Team Is Still Working on Chemistry
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The Titans added veterans like Bernard Pollard and Ryan Fitzpatrick in the offseason, but they're still a very young team overall.
Of the Titans starters, five were drafted within the last three years and seven are new additions from free agency. When you have a team with that many new starters, things will be bumpy.
That was apparent today, as Fitzpatrick didn't seem to be on the same page as a lot of his receivers, especially Kendall Wright.
Unfortunately, since Wright is just in his second year in the league, and Fitzpatrick is in his first with the Titans, those things will happen. They should happen less as the season goes on, but don't expect them to stop before the Titans face the 49ers.
5. The Defense Can't Win on Its Own
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The Titans had a couple of impressive goal-line stands that forced the Seahawks into field goals.
Coming into Week 6, the Tennessee defense ranked ninth in the league. A stat I wasn't familiar with was that their offense was second in the league in three-and-outs.
Now, despite some missteps against the Seahawks, the defense was impressive overall, but much like in 2012, if the offense keeps putting the defense in bad situations, mistakes will be made.
The offense was doing well with Locker at the helm, so the offensive coaches need to get together and figure out what to do differently now that Fitzpatrick is under center.
Speaking of changes that need to be made...
6. Something Has to Be Done About the Run Game
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Chris Johnson has a total of 71 rushing yards from 37 carries over the last three games. That's less than two yards per carry.
I know the Titans have been facing some good defenses in those three weeks, but in the same three games, Fitzpatrick has 81 yards on 14 carries and Jackie Battle has 80 yards on 17 carries.
That is not good.
I don't mean to put this all on Johnson. Has he underperformed? Without question, but the play-calling is helping him to underperform.
Johnson has been entirely ineffective between the tackles this season. Entirely. When he gets to the edge, he can rattle off some good runs, but he's getting nothing running up the middle.
The Titans need to be calling more runs to the outside because of that. Obviously, not every run can go to the edge, but way more need to be going that way if they want to get anything done on the ground with Johnson.
Another thing the Titans need to do is give Battle more reps. He hasn't been very effective between the tackles this season either, but he's fared better than Johnson.
Besides, keeping Johnson rested and making the defenses change up to account for two wholly different running backs ought to benefit both Battle and Johnson.
The Titans spent way too much money and effort on the running game this season for it to be this bad.
7. The Playoff Push Is Getting Tighter
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In order to get into the playoffs, the Titans will need at least six more wins, and probably seven to assure a spot.
The two games against the Jaguars should be easy wins, but division rivalries tend to be a bit more unstable, and the Jags just had an impressive effort against Denver. The Titans can probably count on wins against the Raiders and Rams and can likely depend on one each from the Cardinals, Jaguars and Texans.
That's five games. So, to make the playoffs, the Titans have to win all of those, along with two more between the 49ers, Colts and Broncos.
That's not an easy path to the playoffs, but it's far from impossible. Sweeping the Jaguars would make things a lot easier, and among the must-win games, three of them are the last three games on the schedule.
Still, until the Titans upset someone, they're fighting an uphill battle to get in.