The Titans’ smashmouth attack wears down second straight opponent, opening big holes in the second half of 33-27 victory.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Halfway through the Titans’ game against Seattle on Sunday, the team’s smashmouth attack had landed little in the way of haymaker punches.
Tennessee did lead 9-7 at the half, but a sense of restlessness was evident in the home crowd, frustrated by the Titans’ four straight three-and-out series to start the game.
But if we’ve learned anything about these Titans over the past couple of weeks, it’s that we should stay patient with them. Because they don’t seem to let early struggles phase them in the least.We saw it last week in a big road win at Jacksonville, when the Titans totaled just 58 rushing yards in the first two quarters – scoring just six points – and then steamrolled the Jaguars with 121 rushing yards and 31 points in the second half. Tennessee scored on six straight possessions during that contest.
It was deja vu in some respects in the 33-27 win over Seattle.
The body blows the Titans threw in the first half didn’t necessarily open gaping holes in a rugged Seattle defense. But the Titans suspected that continual pounding in the hot, humid weather – coupled with some halftime adjustments – would eventually wobble the Seahawks’ legs.
“Our coaches did a great job of coming in (at halftime)second half and making changes,” Titans tight end Delanie Walker said. “Maybe it’s just someone taking the right angle on a block, just taking a different step to get to a person. The changes were made. (The Seahawks) lined up in the same front. That’s what we were looking for. We had some big runs.”
It wasn’t long in the third quarter before cracks and fissures eventually began to show in the Seattle defense.
When the Titans twice ran for first downs on their second series of the third quarter, it opened the door for a play-action pass to Jonnu Smith, Seattle’s linebacker trailing behind him after moving toward Tennessee’s backfield in anticipation of a run.
The Titans’ offensive line, meanwhile, was starting to get a whiff of weariness across the line.
“You can definitely feel it,” Titans right tackle Jack Conklin said. “Honestly, it gives (the offensive line) a little boost of energy. When you start to feel guys starting to get a little slower against you, it’s amazing. It gives you a whole new second wind.”
Added center Ben Jones: “In the first half, you’re getting one or two or three yards a carry, and then it starts turning into five or six yards. When you’re able to do that over and over again, it really takes it out of a defense.“It’s hot. We know that. That’s what the gameplan has been the past two weeks. If we don’t make any mistakes – like no turnovers – and we keep pounding on teams, then by the end, we’ll be able to enforce our will.”
The Titans opened a gaping hole on their final drive of the third quarter, in a classic smashmouth moment.
With Dennis Kelly on the field as a third tackle – next to Taylor Lewan – the Titans sent Rishard Matthews in motion from left to right, eliminating a Seattle defender from that side of the field. Marcus Mariota then flipped a pitch to Murray, who followed the imposing trio of Kelly, Lewan and fullback Jalston Fowler into open field, eventually steaming 75 yards for a back-breaking touchdown.
Fowler actually blocked Seattle cornerback Jeremy Lane twice on the same play, once near the line of scrimmage and once about 50 yards downfield.
“I kind of felt like they were wearing down,” Walker said of the Seahawks. “If you run the ball and pound the ball, I think any team is going to start backing up a little bit, and at some point, you see that in some of those big runs.”
The Titans’ next drive was more vintage heavy-metal football, with Henry ripping off an eight-yard gain, a 25-yard gain and a five-yard gain en route to a Titans field goal.
When the final numbers were compiled, the Titans’ gradual offensive power surge against Seattle was every bit as impressive as it had been in the win over Jacksonville.
After failing to pick up a first down on their first four possessions, the Titans chained together five consecutive scoring drives against the Seahawks. After totaling just 70 rushing yards on their first 24 carries, the Titans piled up 125 rushing yards on their final 11 carries.
Two wins in two weeks — all thanks to patience, persistence and power football.
— Reach John Glennon at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @glennonsports.