Titans overcome sputtering start, outslug Seahawks
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The calendar read September 24, but it felt more like July 24 with 88-degree temperatures and 97-percent humidity that pushed the heat index over 110 degrees inside Nissan Stadium on Sunday.
Don’t think for a second that left tackle Taylor Lewan and the Tennessee Titans didn’t notice.
“We practiced in it all week,” he said. “I looked at the weather in Seattle and it was 60 degrees. So we knew it could be a factor. You could see it wear on them.”
Tennessee’s offense brought a different kind of heat in the second half, scoring on its first four possessions to produce a 33-27 win over the Seattle Seahawks.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota completed 20 of 32 passes for 225 yards, hitting a pair of touchdown passes to give the Titans (2-1) the lead for good. DeMarco Murray added 115 yards on 14 carries as Tennessee finished with 195 yards on the ground after managing only a yard in the first quarter.
“Pass protection was awesome today,” Mariota said. “This is huge, but it’s only one game. This is our process, and it’s a step we had to make.”
After needing nearly 12 minutes of the first quarter to pick up a first down, the Titans kicked into gear. Mariota was able to hit some first-down passes that kept Seattle (1-2) from loading the tackle box to stop the run.
Second-quarter field goals of 24, 37 and 47 yards by Ryan Succop gave Tennessee a 9-7 edge at halftime. Following a 10-yard touchdown pass from Russell Wilson to rookie running back Chris Carson that made it 14-9 Seattle less than five minutes into the third quarter, the Titans started scoring touchdowns.
Taking advantage of a free play after the Seahawks (1-2) committed an offside penalty, Mariota hit Rishard Matthews on a quick screen. Matthews weaved 55 yards from left to right, picking up a key late block from tight end Phillip Supernaw, to regain the lead for Tennessee at the 7:34 mark.
“It looked just how we ran it in practice,” Matthews said. “I saw a big lane and had great blockers in front of me. I had to put on the brakes, but Supernaw came in and cleaned up the pile.”
After a Seattle three-and-out, the Titans upped the lead to 23-14 less than four minutes later. Mariota took advantage of rookie tight end Jonnu Smith being covered by middle linebacker Michael Wilhoite, lofting a 24-yard scoring strike.
Murray capped the 21-point quarter with a 75-yard touchdown run with 1:34 left, sweeping off left tackle. An initial block from Lewan sprung him, while rookie wideout Taywan Taylor and fullback Jalston Fowler provided key downfield blocks to help Murray reach the end zone.
The outburst came on the heels of a 31-point second half last week in a 37-16 win at Jacksonville. Making it more noteworthy was that it happened against an opponent that permitted just 26 points in the first two games.
“It was uncharacteristic for us to give up those big plays,” Seattle head coach Pete Carroll said. “We had a couple of little bursts, but give Tennessee credit for doing some nice things offensively.”
Wilson tried to bring the Seahawks back, finishing with 373 yards on 29-of-49 passing and four touchdowns. He found Luke Willson and Paul Richardson for fourth-quarter scores, the latter occurring with 1:50 remaining.
But tight end Delanie Walker covered an onside kick and Seattle never got possession again. The Seahawks were flagged for 12 men on the field prior to a punt with 11 seconds left to seal the issue.
Succop added a 35-yard field goal with 10 minutes remaining in the game for the Titans. They had two second-quarter touchdowns nullified, including an 80-yard punt return by rookie Adoree’ Jackson because of an illegal block in the back.
Doug Baldwin caught 10 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown for Seattle, but left the game in the fourth quarter with a groin injury and didn’t return.
NOTES: Seattle RG Mark Glowinski was a healthy scratch Sunday after starting the first two games. The Seahawks also made RB J.D. McKissic, CB Neiko Thorpe, FS Tedric Thompson, LB D.J. Alexander, G Jordan Roos and T Isaiah Battle inactive. ... Tennessee inactives included WR Corey Davis (hamstring) and S Johnathan Cyprien. The Titans also deactivated CB Kalan Reed, OLB Josh Carraway, LB Nate Palmer, OL Corey Levin and DT Karl Klug. ... Tennessee RB DeMarco Murray collected the 27th 100-yard game of his career.