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NFL Preview - Tennessee (3-2) at Seattle (4-1)
By John McMullen, NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - After playing three consecutive home games, the Tennessee Titans are about to pay for it by going on the road to perhaps the NFL's toughest environment, Seattle.
The Seahawks have yet to lose in the Pacific Northwest since Russell Wilson took over as the team's signal caller. Wilson is a perfect 10-0 as a starter at CenturyLink Field, completing 128-of-204 passes for 1,848 yards with 22 TDs and only four interceptions, good for a 119.9 passer rating in those contests,
Making matters even worse for the Titans is the fact that Seattle faltered down the stretch in Indianapolis last week, suffering its first loss of the 2013 campaign.
The Seahawks, who own a one-game lead in the NFC West over both San Francisco and Arizona, let a fourth-quarter lead slip away after gaining control with a pair of touchdown passes by Wilson.
It was Seattle�s first defeat in the regular season since Nov. 25, 2012, ending a run of nine straight regular-season wins.
Wilson threw for 210 yards and two scores and added 102 yards on the ground to match Marshawn Lynch's rushing total. Steven Hauschka kicked four field goals but had another attempt blocked and returned for a touchdown by Delano Howell.
"Not closing out drives and taking field goals was a big difference today," Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said. "The tale of this game comes down to the big plays made or weren't made. It's a very frustrating game to leave out there."
The Titans, meanwhile, hosted the unbeaten Kansas City Chiefs last week and fell by a final score of 26-17. After falling behind 13-0, the Titans scored 17 consecutive points in the second half before losing the lead in the fourth quarter.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, making his first start in a Titans uniform in the place of injured starter Jake Locker (hip, knee), completed 21-of-41 passes for 247 yards, including a creative toss to Chris Johnson that resulted in a 49-yard touchdown. The ninth-year veteran quarterback also scored the other touchdown for the Titans on a nine-yard run.
The Titans defense was stout for most of the afternoon, allowing the Chiefs to convert only 1-of-12 third-down attempts and one touchdown in four trips inside the 20.
However, the one touchdown allowed by the defense, combined with four Kansas City field goals, was enough in the end for the Chiefs as they benefited from an early Titans special teams miscue. Kansas City's first punt of the game caromed off the foot of Damian Williams and into the end zone, where it was recovered by the Chiefs for a touchdown.
"This was kind of a roller-coaster ride," said Titans linebacker Zaviar Gooden. "We've just got to finish games."
The Titans and Seahawks have met 14 times during the regular season with Seattle having a 9-5 advantage. The Seahawks had won five consecutive games and seven out of eight until the Titans won the last encounter, a 17-3 win at CenturyLink Field in the 2009 season finale.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Wilson's ascent to the top of the NFL mountain has been rapid to say the least. As a rookie, he started every game and was selected to the Pro Bowl after matching Peyton Manning's 1998 record for most touchdown passes by a first-year player (26) and setting a club record with a 100.0 passer rating.
This season, the University of Wisconsin product, has most buying into Seattle as a legitimate Super Bowl contender. He's the classic new breed dual-threat QB that can beat you with his arm or legs and has proven to be a notch better at home.
The Titans defense Wilson will be facing is a solid unit, ranking ninth overall in the NFL by allowing 321.2 yards per game. Wilson's biggest problem could be playmaking corner Alterraun Verner, who likes to bait opposing QBs into game-changing mistakes.
Fitzpatrick is a competent backup for the Titans but this is the kind of test which would have proven to be a great learning experience for Locker, who will remain sidelined this week.
Fitzpatrick threw a pair of interceptions in final 6:14 against Kansas City last week and needs to play a clean game for Tennessee to have any chance.
For that to happen, though, the Titans really need to get their running game going. Tennessee has managed just 183 rushing yards over the past two weeks. Chris Johnson was held to 17 on 10 carries against the Chiefs after gaining a measly 21 on 15 carries during a 38-13 win over the New York Jets on Sept. 29.
The Titans rank just 19th in the NFL at 3.7 yards per carry and Johnson needs to show some juice here. The team could also get a boost from the potential return of Shonn Greene, who has been sidelined with a knee injury.
The Seahawks sports one of the league's best defenses led by perhaps the NFL's top secondary headlined by a pair of All-Pro performers: safety Earl Thomas and cornerback Richard Sherman. Through five weeks, they are ranked sixth overall and third in passing defense but there are a few holes.
After allowing just 27 points in the first three weeks, Seattle has given up 54 in the past two games. Seattle also outscored their first four opponents by a whopping 44-7 margin in the fourth quarter before letting Luck and the Colts dominate in the final frame last week.
The Seahawks' stingy D allows only 4.0 yards per rush, however, and 109.0 yards a game on the ground.
"We've played well in spurts as far as doing things consistently but haven't yet to this point," Tennessee coach Mike Munchak said. "When you're not converting things like that third-and-1s, fourth-and-1s, like I said that's concerning and that's up front. We have to get more push at times."
The Seahawks current 10-game run at CenturyLink Field is the longest active regular-season home winning streak in the NFL and they have only been upping their dominance as it progresses. In its last six at home, Settle has outscored opponents by a gaudy 222-53 or basically a 37-9 margin.
"I don't want to get real good at this," Carroll said. "I don't want to get good at playing after losses, but we need to handle it well, but I'm curious to see if we do."
While the Titans have won seven of their past 10 on the road against NFC squads, this hill is just too steep to climb.
"We know going to Seattle, how hard it is," Munchak said. "We have to go reload, and we will, and play better."
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Seahawks 31, Titans 17
10/10 14:01:51 ET