The Tennessee Titans are not likely to score many points Sunday.
Not against a defense that is coming off a poor performance in Indianapolis and will be plenty charged up playing in front of the 12th Man in Seattle.
The Seahawks' secondary played its worst game of the season in the 34-28 loss to the Colts in Indy.
Granted, the Legion of Boom was going against a team with great Luck (Andrew) and faced an officiating crew that did not make consistently accurate calls on pass interference. But the Hawks let T.Y. Hilton burn them for two big touchdowns and allowed the Colts to convert 7 of 12 third downs (58.3 percent) -- the worst percentage of the year allowed by the Seahawks.
"There (were) a couple of plays that we would like to have again, and they had some good combination on some things that we didn’t play as well as we would’ve liked," defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said of the mix-ups in the secondary.
As a result, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and the guys apparently were feisty in practice this week.
That is bad news for the Titans' offense, which ranks toward the bottom of the league in yards per game and has scored more than 24 points just once in five games (the Hawks have been over 24 in three games and are averaging 37 at home).
Ryan Fitzpatrick has taken over for the injured (again) Jake Locker, the former Washington Husky who will not get a chance to play in front of friends and family.
Fitzpatrick knows the power of the Seattle defense. As the quarterback of the Buffalo Bills last season, he completed 21 of 38 passes (55.3 percent), threw two interceptions and was sacked three times in a 50-17 loss.
In his first start for Locker last week, he had almost identical numbers against Kansas City: 21 of 41 (51.2 percent), two interceptions and three sacks.
The Titans prefer to run the ball, but they have not done it very well on the road: 231 yards on 75 carries (3.1 per carry).
Chris Johnson might have fond memories of Seattle. In his last game vs. the Hawks, the final game of the 2009 season, Johnson eclipsed 2,000 yards rushing and set the NFL record for yards from scrimmage.
That was a long time ago, though. And it was a flash-in-the-pan season for Johnson, who has averaged 1,218 yards in the three seasons since.
He is off to his now typical slow start this season, with just 294 yards and no touchdowns on 94 carries (3.1 per carry). He was held to 21 yards rushing against the New York Jets and 17 yards against Kansas City the last two weeks.
Whether this game is close will depend on how the Seattle offense performs against a stingy Titans defense that is ninth in yards and 10th in points allowed and is one of the better pass-rush teams in the league.
The Hawks' offensive line has been the worst against pressure this season, due largely to losing three starters. Center Max Unger returns Sunday, and coach Pete Carroll is pinning his hopes on the 2012 All-Pro being the difference.
“This is a scheme-oriented defense in that they do a lot of stuff. They have a lot of changeups, they do play aggressive coverage-wise, they’re a lot of man-to-man," Carroll said. "But they do come after you quite a bit, with multiple looks that give us problems. … So it’s been a challenging week for the guys to get straight. We have to identify really well. That’s why it’s so important Max is back this week and hopefully we’ll be able to sight their stuff, pick it up properly and give ourselves a chance with the football."
With a 10-game home winning streak, the Hawks hope to take advantage of their only home game in a five-week stretch. They play Thursday at Arizona and then go to St. Louis for "Monday Night Football" on Oct. 28.
"It seems like a rare opportunity to get back at CenturyLink, in the midst of our schedule here," Carroll said. "Max that opportunity of being here. We’ve had some good games here already this season. We need to do that all over again. So we’re cranked up about that opportunity and we know we go back on the road here after that. So we've got to really make the most of this."
Leo rusher Chris Clemons is off to a great start. He has played in three games and really looked great the past two, with two sacks and a forced fumble. Per MMQB's Pressure Points, Clemons is tied with suspended San Francisco pass rusher Aldon Smith for the best pressure rate in the league: 12.2 percent.
"I think we all recognized how hard he worked to get back," D-coordinator Dan Quinn said. "So for him coming back and getting his knee strong, each time he had to go out, it was another, ‘Hi. I’m back and I can do this.' "
Bruce Irvin got off to a strong start in his first game of the season, with a sack and four tackles. "I think we were all kind of waiting to get to that first practice with him and see where he is, where his retention is," Quinn said of Irvin, who is learning the strong-side linebacker position this season. "So for him to come back in the shape that he was and the mindset that he had, I think that we all felt good (in practice). … And he did a nice job in the game.”
Rookie DT Jordan Hill also got his first play of the season, having missed the first four games with a biceps injury. “You know, it’s good to have him back out for the first time," Quinn said. "I think he ended up with (15) plays. So it was good to see him and he’s an active guy. When he’s on the move, he’s effective. So we’re glad to have him back and now it’s ready to move forward with him. But I thought that for the first outing for him, he did a good job.”
With TE Zach Miller hobbled last week, rookie Luke Willson started at tight end and the Hawks used him on a great little pass play off the zone read. He caught two passes for 28 yards on the same play, gaining 17 to the right side and 11 to the left.
“He did very well," Carroll said. "That was the first time that he really got some repetitions there to show if he understood what was going on or if he was just luck. He hit a couple of plays really well, and that’s tremendous versatility for us, and that’s the stuff that Zach Miller has done. … We have not held Luke back at all; he’s just progressed right along through the system there. We have had no restrictions with him because he has studied so hard and learned so well, and he’s physically capable of doing the things. He’s going to continue to improve and develop more stuff. There’s a lot of intricacies about this position that we utilize, but he does a very good job. He caught and ran with the ball well last week also. We’re very encouraged by his progress.”
It doesn't get much tougher for a rookie right tackle than Michael Bowie's first two games, and Carroll said his progress depends on his confidence level going forward.
“He did better again," Carroll said. "He was more consistent with his helmet placement in the running game. He just looks like he’s gaining confidence. There are fewer situations where he’s uncomfortable or he has no clue what’s happening. … Physically he’s capable. He can play the position for us, he can handle himself in the running game, he can hold up against the big rushers and the speed guys. Now it's consistency, and that will come from his confidence in growing with us. We’re really encouraged about his progress and we think he’s going to be a fine football player for us.”
After a week to get a close look at rookie QB B.J. Daniels, Carroll said, "He’s made a really good impression with us. He has a great arm, he’s picking things up really well, he’s obviously a really talented athlete, and he’s got good quickness and stuff. The things that we liked about him are maybe a little stronger than we thought. We didn’t realize that he would be as accurate as he is and have such velocity. We’re really fired up about it; it’s just going to take a long time. At this time of the year it’s really hard to get him caught up. It’s going to be a long commitment to get that done.”
Carroll also made it clear to those who keep asking about Daniels' versatility that they view him as a quarterback: “He’s not a running back for us at all. We’re not thinking that at all. We're thinking of him as … a quarterback who can run with it."
As the Seahawks finish a four-game run through the AFC South, the Titans are starting a three-game stretch against NFC West teams.