NASHVILLE – The Titans face the Seahawks on Sunday at Lumen Field in Seattle.
Here's a look at six things to watch:
Establish the Run
It was ugly from the get-go in Week One. On running back Derrick Henry's first carry he was tackled three yards behind the line of scrimmage. At halftime, Henry had just eight yards on nine carries. The Titans want to set the tone early in Seattle, by running the football with success. History is on Henry's side – in 16 regular season road games since the beginning of the 2019 season, Henry has rushed for 2,003 rushing yards, 20 rushing touchdowns, and an average of 125.2 yards per game – all league highs. He has at least 100 rushing yards in 11 of those contests and more than 200 yards in three of them. It won't be easy against Seattle defense, of course, but the Titans need to find a way.
Julio and A.J.
There was plenty of hype attached to receivers Julio Jones and A.J. Brown headed into the opener, and the tandem didn't exactly get off to a torrid start. While Brown had four catches for 49 yards and a score, Jones managed just three catches for 29 yards, and he looked a little rusty. Against a talented and physical Seattle secondary, these two will be challenged on Sunday. The Titans need to find a way to get them involved early, which would help open things up for Henry in the process.
Protect the QB
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill needs time to work in order to find his talented twosome and others, and he didn't have much of that last week while being sacked six times. This week, left tackle Taylor Lewan owned up to his sub-par performance in the opener while vowing to be better. The reality is the Titans have to be better across the board against a Seattle defense that can bring it. Three different Seahawks outside linebackers had sacks in the season opener, but another guy the Titans need to slow down is safety Jamal Adams, who ranks sixth among DBs since 1982 with 21.5 sacks.
Contain Russell Wilson and Seattle's WRs
Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray gave the Tennessee defense fits in the opener, as he threw for four touchdowns while running for another. Murray eluded would-be tacklers while making great throws, and he frustrated defenders along the way. Well, the Titans will face another elusive quarterback on Sunday in Seattle's Russell Wilson, who has been giving defenses fits for years. Wilson threw for 254 yards and four TDs in Seattle's season-opening win over Indianapolis, and he's coming off a season when he had 26 TDs (25 pass, 1 rush) vs 4 INTs in eight homes starts. The Titans need to make Wilson uncomfortable with the rush, and they need to make plays in the secondary against two really good receivers in DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett.
Let's face it: The Titans got punched in the mouth last week, and they didn't respond very well. Every time they tried to rally, the Cardinals kept coming. On Sunday, the Titans need to play with more spunk and spirit, something they've talked about all week. During interviews, one-by-one players talked about playing with a fighter's mentality against the Seahawks, and it's going to take toughness to stop Seattle running back Chris Carson, and to win on Sunday. Will the Titans establish an identity early on both sides of the ball? The answer could go a long way in determining how this one plays out.
It's been a long time since the Titans played in a raucous environment like they will on Sunday at Lumen Field. In fact, you have to go all the way back to the AFC Championship Game against the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium at the end of the 2019 season. A year ago, of course, the team played in empty, or limited capacity, stadiums. The Seahawks are tough to beat at home – they've won 12 straight home openers. The Titans will need to play with poise while using the hard count on offense, and focus and discipline on defense.