Just by looking at the box score, one might think that the Titans offense completely overwhelmed a very good Seahawks defense on Sunday. However, for most of the game, Seattle was winning the matchup on this side of the ball. The Titans struggled to get much going as the Seahawks’ team speed on defense was too much to handle. Tennessee went 3-and-out on their first 4 drives and ran 43 plays for only 159 yards in the first half, an average of just 3.7 yards per play. 2 of their 3 field goals (They scored 9 points in the first half) were set up by Seattle penalties. Overall, the Titans were having trouble generating consistent offense. That all changed in the 3rd quarter.
The Titans won by using Seattle’s speed and aggressiveness against them. Their first touchdown of the quarter came on a play-action wide-receiver screen. After Marcus Mariota drew the defense offside with a hard count (something he did multiple times Sunday), the play-action to the right got most of the defense aggressively reacting hard to the play-fake side. The fact that Tennessee aligned with 6 offensive linemen also helped sell the run.
By the time Rishard Matthews caught the ball on the wide receiver screen, the Titans had a numbers advantage with 3 lead blockers out front and a lot of open space.
55 yards later, Matthews was in the end zone.
On their next drive, the Titans were finally able to get a sustained drive going. A zone read for Mariota and two Derrick Henry runs covered 22 yards. The constant for all 3 of these runs was the presence of a lead blocker out of the backfield. This helped set up Tennessee’s next touchdown.
On this play, the Titans once again aligned with 6 offensive linemen. Tight end Jonnu Smith lined up in the backfield as the lead back. Wide receiver Taywan Taylor began to motion across the formation right before the snap.
The play action showed a fake hand-off to both the running back and the end around. This sucked Seattle defenders in towards the line of scrimmage, and drew safety Earl Thomas to the left side of the field.
Tight end Jonnu Smith, who initially looked like a lead blocker, was able to sneak out of the backfield unscathed.
Because Smith aligned in the backfield, it took him longer to get into his wheel route than if he had been running the route from the slot. This ensured that cornerback Richard Sherman would not be able to recognize the route combination, and instead, would go with the outside receiver running a post right at him.
With the second level defenders drawn towards the line of scrimmage because of the play action and Sherman occupied by his post route, Smith was wide open for an easy touchdown.
A 75-yard touchdown run by DeMarco Murray on their next drive completed Tennessee’s big-play 3rd quarter and opened up the game. Once again, Tennessee used 6 offensive linemen on that play.
Give credit to Titans Offensive Coordinator Terry Robiskie. The Titans are not as talented on offense as the Seahawks are on defense. Yet Robiskie made the necessary adjustments during this game to take advantage of what Seattle does well on defense. The Titans are 2-1 as a result.