Tennessee and Seattle both come into this game trying to get back to their winning ways. The Titans’ offense faces another tough defense in the Seahawks after playing Kanas City and the Jets the past two weeks. The Seahawks come into this game after their first loss of the season, against the Indianapolis Colts. The Seahawks’ secondary got beat deep on a couple of big plays to T.Y. Hilton — on one of them, the usually reliable Richard Sherman got lost in coverage, and on the second Andrew Luck threw a perfect pass to Hilton for the touchdown.
The last time these two teams met was in Week 17 of the 2009 season. Chris Johnson rushed for 134 yards, breaking the 2,000-yard mark on the season to get the Titans to 8-8 and put an end to the 5-11 Seahawks season. While 2009 seems an eternity ago for the Seahawks, I’m sure Chris Johnson would love to get back to his 2009 form.
Wilson Under Pressure
Last year, Russell Wilson was outstanding under pressure (+10.9) throwing only three interceptions. Even though he was pressured at 39.2% last season (second-highest), he still had the fifth-highest accuracy percentage in the league, at 66%. Wilson’s 2012 form has not continued into 2013, where he has graded -3.5 and has a QB Rating of 39.2 under pressure, completing only 35% of his passes. Though Wilson has had issues in Under Pressure Passing, the blame is not solely on him. The Seahawks’ offensive line has given up pressure on 46.6% of Wilson’s drop-backs. When the Seahawks lost Russell Okung to a toe injury (Okung is on the designated to return I.R.) they replaced him by moving Paul McQuistan from left guard to left tackle. McQuistan on his best day at guard is below par. Since he has moved to left tackle, McQuistan has graded out as the fourth-worst tackle and has easily the worst Pass Blocking Efficiency, at 85.4 (23 total pressures on 127 drop-backs) — the second-worst is at 89.5. The return of Max Unger is a big addition if he can play at the elite level he displayed last season.
The Titans have had good success in getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks, as they have managed pressure on 43.2% of opponents drop-backs. This has been down to Jurrell Casey providing more pressure than he has in any season in five games. Casey is tied with Geno Atkins for seventh in Pass Rushing Productivity, at 9.1. Derrick Morgan might not be on pace to match his 2012 season, but he is still an effective player. Morgan has normally rushed the passer from the left defensive end position. Since the start of the season Gregg Williams has been moving Morgan around. He has played right defensive end on 21.6% of snaps, compared to last year where he played right defensive end 7% of the time. It would not be a surprise if Williams tries to take advantage of McQuistan by putting Morgan over him more than usual.
Titans Cornerbacks vs Seahawks Wide Receivers
The Titans come into this game with two of the Top 7 cornerbacks in football, Jason McCourty (+5.1) and the No. 1 graded corner Alterraun Verner. Prior to last week’s game, Verner had been primarily used at right cornerback, McCourty at left cornerback and Coty Sensabaugh at slot corner. The only expectation was against Houston where McCourty followed Andre Johnson around all day. However, in Week 5 Sensabaugh suffered a concussion and Verner received time in the slot with Tommy Campbell playing on the outside. Verner has given up 9 catches on 28 targets, with the second-lowest QB Rating Against at a ridiculously low 12.9.
None of the Seahawk receivers are going to put up the numbers of elite receivers in the game, but they are a group who complement each other when they are all playing at their best. Leading the Seahawks in receiving yards is Doug Baldwin. Baldwin has played 71.5% of the time in the slot, where he is has a 2.48 Yards Per Route Run. If Sensabaugh is unable to play after his concussion it will be interesting to see if the Titans move Verner into the slot to cover Baldwin or keep him in his normal position at left cornerback.
Both Sidney Rice and Golden Tate have played above average, but neither player is going as well as the end of last year. Each of them showed flashes of their top form against Jacksonville, but outside of that game neither has been able to do produce a grade above +0.6. The Seahawks are going to need one of these receivers to step up against McCourty and Verner to give Russell Wilson the option he needs when he is under duress form the lack of protection he has received from his offensive line.
Titans Inability to Run
The Titans came into the season thinking they had shored up the middle of their offensive line with the addition of Chance Warmack and Andy Levitre. The mindset of these additions was to provide Chris Johnson with better blocking so that he would have space to use his speed and gain huge chunks of yardage. Both Warmack and Levitre have both graded positive in the run game. What the Titans failed to see was how good of a job Fernando Velasco did last year at center. Velasco was released on the last day of cuts this year for journeyman Robert Turner. Turner is currently PFF’s second-worse graded center (-10.6), and the majority of his grade has come from his inability to block in the run game. The Titans have run 40 times with a point of attack between middle left to middle right for 106 yards at an average of 2.65 yds.
The Seahawks come into this game with a deep rotation on their defensive line, in fact seven players have recorded over 120 snaps through five games this season. So far this season, Brandon Mebane has the fifth-highest Run Stop Percentage for defensive tackles, at 12.2% (10 run stops). After last season, Red Bryant looked like a shell of his former self. While he will never be confused as a pass rusher, he has typically graded positively as a run defender. Last season Bryant graded out as the third-worst 4-3 defensive end. However, this season Bryant has been playing at the best level of his career. Bryant has produced eight stops in the run game, along with four assists. The last Seahawk defensive linemen to be grading out positively in run defense is Michael Bennett. Bennett will be up against right tackle David Stewart. While Stewart might not be the best run blocking right tackle in the game, the majority of his struggles this year came after a tough game against the Houston Texans and J.J. Watt. If the Titans are unable to get the running game going for the sixth straight week, Ryan Fitzpatrick will have to lead the Titans to victory.