By: Justin Hawkins
“You feel it, and it sucks. You can’t help but to blame yourself.”
– Titans OL Peter Skoronski
The Tennessee Titans fall 19-16 to a shorthanded Houston Texans team on a walk off field goal in overtime as time expired. With the loss, the Titans (5-9) have been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention and will have a losing record for the second straight season. Now, the Titans host the Seattle Seahawks (7-7) on Christmas Eve with the hopes of an early Christmas gift.
Last Time Out
It was a tale of two halves for the Tennessee Titans Sunday as they fell to their AFC divisional rival, Houston Texans, on a Ka’imi Fairbairn 54-yard field goal in overtime as time expired. The Titans wore their throwback ‘Love Ya Blue’ Houston Oilers uniforms. The style was there for the Titans, but the performance was not. The Titans jumped out to a 13-0 lead just after the second quarter began. But, from there, it was all Houston as they closed the game scoring 19 points to the Titans three. The issues the Titans have had all season reared its ugly head once again Sunday.
The offensive line struggled to block all day as they allowed 7 sacks on quarterback Will Levis, 12 tackles for loss, 11 quarterback hits, and 1 injured quarterback. Levis, in overtime, took a sack on third down and grimaced in pain as he hobbled off the field. It was later ruled a high ankle sprain for the rookie quarterback. Sound familiar? Ryan Tannehill was forced out of the London game, week six, against the Ravens due to a high ankle sprain he suffered as a result of a sack. The Titans offensive line is amongst the worst in the league and has now been a direct result of two injured quarterbacks. It has not been determined yet if Levis will play this coming week. But, if that is not enough for this offensive line, they also struggled in run protection as well. The Titans were only able to gain sixty-six yards on the ground and running back Derrick Henry was held to a career low nine yards on sixteen carries. The day of struggles caused the veteran running back to contemplate his time with the Titans and his career as a whole as to what is next.
“Yeah, definitely today you had that feeling. We had a hope of kind of slipping in there. And then being eliminated, knowing its three games left. I’ve been here my whole career. I definitely want to go out strong, which isn’t the case. Just trying to give it my all these last three games and leave it all on the field.”
– Titans RB Derrick Henry
The loss was not just a result of the offensive line as the chemistry between quarterback Will Levis and his receivers, specifically DeAndre Hopkins, seemed to be off. Levis, 17-of-26 for 199 yards and an interception, targeted Hopkins nine times and only connected twice for twenty-one yards. Levis had several throws that were behind the receiver or just off-target in general. The one bright spot on offense was wide receiver Treylon Burks who made an impact after being mostly invisible all season securing 3 receptions on 3 targets for 62 yards.
Levis did manage to score his first rushing touchdown of his career Sunday in the first quarter, but kicker Nick Folk missed his second extra point of the year. It turned out, that one extra point could have been the deciding factor and giving the Titans the win.
On defense, the Titans seemed to be on their way to a solid game against a divisional opponent. A minute into the second quarter, Titans defensive back Elijah Molden intercepted Case Keenum and returned it 44 yards for a touchdown. But, as I mentioned earlier, it was a tale of two halves. The Titans were gashed by Texans running back Devin Singletary as he ran for 121 yards. The Titans struggled to stop the run in the second half, which kick-started the Texans offense led by Case Keenum, whom the Texans called last week to come in and start. Rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud missed Sunday’s game due to a concussion. Keenum, 23-of-36 for 229 yards with a touchdown and interception, settled in after his early interception and picked apart the Titans secondary despite the Texans missing their top two receivers. Wide receiver Noah Brown stepped up and recorded 8 receptions for 82 yards and a touchdown.
The lone bright spot on defense continues to be defensive lineman Denico Autry who recorded two sacks Sunday. With his two sacks, Autry secured his first ever double-digit sack season.
No Geno Smith, no problem for the Seattle Seahawks who stunned the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday Night Football at Lumen Field in Seattle, Washington as they won 20-17. Backup quarterback, Drew Lock, made his second straight start in place of injured quarterback Geno Smith, groin injury, and drama came with it. Lock connected with rookie wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba on a 29-yard touchdown pass with just 28 seconds left in regulation to give the Seahawks the lead. The win snapped a four-game losing skid and got them back into playoff contention in the NFC.
The Eagles took a 10-0 lead midway through the second quarter, and the Seahawks, valiantly, came back to outscore one of the leagues top teams 20-7. The Eagles, however, have now lost three straight games and are falling out of sorts on offense. The credit goes to the Seahawks defense who did it without safety Jamal Adams, who was a healthy scratch, and recording zero sacks in the game. Seattle limited Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts to just 143 yards and two interceptions on 17-of-31 passing. The biggest factor for the Eagles was their run game as they rushed for 178 yards and two touchdowns. Hurts led Philadelphia in rushing with 82 yards and had both touchdowns.
The Seattle offense was limited without Geno Smith at the helm but fared well enough to get the win. Quarterback Drew Lock, 22-of-33 for 208 yards passing and a touchdown, played it safe and got the ball to his playmakers. Wide receiver D.K. Metcalf led the Seahawks in receiving with 78 yards on 5 receptions. Jaxon Smith-Njigba had the late touchdown to secure the victory.
All-time the Titans and Seahawks have met 18 times between the regular season and postseason. The Seahawks have the 10-7 edge in the regular season, but the Titans got the better of the Seahawks in the playoffs back in 1988 in the AFC Wild Card game when Seattle was a member of the AFC.
It’s a Christmas Eve game and the Titans could use a little holiday cheer as their 2023 season nears its end. Last year, the Titans lost to the Texans on Christmas Eve and eventually fell out of the playoff race. This year, the Titans, despite already being eliminated from the playoffs, will try to give themselves and their fans an early Christmas gift and a good start to the holidays.
Both teams enter the game with a question on what quarterback will get the start Sunday. Geno Smith for the Seahawks was active Monday night, but did not play. His status seems likely that he will get the start. For the Titans, the question is much more complexing. With Will Levis’ high-ankle sprain, his status is questionable for this week. If Levis cannot go, Titans head coach Mike Vrabel told the media that Tannehill will be the starter. Tannehill still would give the Titans a good chance to win and knows the offense better than anyone.
The Seahawks with Geno Smith have a fluid offense and can find ways to beat your secondary with the receiving trio of D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Here’s how the Titans and Seahawks compare on offense.
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The Titans compare much better when it comes to defense, and it is the strength of the team especially when it comes to limiting touchdowns in the red zone and getting to the quarterback.
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What is a Titans strength on defense is a Seahawks weakness on their defense. The Titans need to exploit the Seahawks in the red zone. As of late, the Titans have improved in the red zone over course of the last month and need that to continue Sunday.
The Titans secondary will have their hands full covering the Seahawks receiving trio of Metcalf, Lockett, and Smith-Njigba. They have not fared well in covering speedy receivers who can make catches down field and that is just what this Seahawks offense can do. Kristian Fulton is on IR for the Titans, but Tre Avery had a decent game last week and will need to have another if the Titans hope to contain the Seahawks along with Sean Murphy-Bunting, Elijah Molden, and Roger McCreary.
Lastly, the Seahawks are giving up over 123 yards rushing a game to opposing offenses. Last week was a sore spot in the eyes of Derrick Henry and the Titans offensive line. If the Titans want to get any kind of consistency, regardless of who is at quarterback, going on offense they have to get the run game going whether that be via Derrick Henry or the rookie Tyjae Spears, who has shown flashes this season.
Seattle Seahawks (7-7) vs. Tennessee Titans (5-9)
Time: December 24th @ 12:00 PM CT
Location: Nissan Stadium (Nashville, TN)
TV Broadcast: CBS (News Channel 5 locally)
TV Broadcast Crew: Andrew Catalon, Tiki Barber, Matt Ryan, AJ Ross
Radio: Titans Radio (104-5 The Zone)
Radio Broadcast Crew: Mike Keith, Dave McGinnis, Ramon Foster, Rhett Bryan
Line: SEA -2.5
Things To Watch
Who Starts at QB for Titans
Rookie quarterback Will Levis suffered a high-ankle sprain in Sunday’s loss, and his status for this Sunday is questionable. It is likely that he does not practice this much this week and focuses more on the healing and rehabilitation process, instead. But, if Levis cannot play against Seattle, head coach Mike Vrabel said that backup Ryan Tannehill will get the start. Tannehill lost his job this season to the rookie Levis, but if he starts he could come out with the mindset that his career is on the line. Any time that Tannehill plays is time to show what he has left in the tank. Despite all of that, Tannehill does still give the Titans as good of a chance to win as Levis due to the comfortably of this offense.
Christmas in Nashville
Yes, the Titans will have another losing season (second straight), and no, the Titans will not be in the playoffs. However, that won’t stop this team from fighting to the final whistle at the end of the season. Last year, the Titans went into Christmas with a sour taste in their mouth after losing to the Texans on Christmas Eve. I’m sure Titans players all want to enjoy an early Christmas gift of a Titans win and enjoy the holiday weekend this year.
Derrick Henry’s Revenge
Last week against the Texans was one of the least productive outings that Derrick Henry has ever had as a starter for the Titans as he gained just 9 yards. Henry was either tackled or hit by the line of scrimmage several times and had to fight for those 9 yards. The last time Henry faced the Seahawks, September of 2021, he rushed for 182 yards and three touchdowns on a career-high 35 attempts. I doubt that Derrick Henry will show up due to the how the offense is currently constructed, but I’m sure he cannot stand the sour taste of last week.
Seahawks’ Wide Receiver Trio vs. Titans Secondary
D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba versus the Titans somewhat depleted secondary is going to be the main matchup I watch for. Metcalf is a big receiver with elite speed that can make highly contested catches and beat you down field. Lockett has sure hands and has been reliable all year for the Seahawks as he is good for 3-5 catches per game. Smtih-Njigba is an unpolished rookie with potential, but has been coming on as of late and should not go unnoticed as the third receiver. The Titans secondary has a tough game ahead of them. It will take a full team effort to slow down the passing attack.