Even in answering an unrelated question, Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate may have best summed up Sunday’s victory over the Tennessee Titans.
“The only team that can stop us is us,” Tate emphasized while discussing Seattle’s future schedule.
The Hawks did precisely that on a couple of notable occasions Sunday — particularly on a potential game-altering fumble to end the first half. They regrouped after intermission, however, to turn back the Titans, 20-13, in a National Football League game Sunday at CenturyLink Field.
Unbeaten in Seattle since 2011, the Seahawks (5-1) had blown out their first two home opponents this season. In truth, this game shouldn’t have been that close, either.
With quarterback Russell Wilson passing for 257 yards and rushing for 61 more, the Hawks outgained the visitors, 404-223. Seattle did not punt in the second half and kept the Titans out of the red zone until the final three minutes.
Tennessee running back Chris Johnson, the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year in 2009 but a Fantasy League disaster this season, netted only 33 yards on 12 carries. Veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, filling in for injured ex-University of Washington standout Jake Locker at quarterback, finished with an anemic QB rating of 46.8.
Thanks to a stalwart Titan defense and their own mistakes, however, the Seahawks never could deliver the knockout blow.
The biggest of those mistakes came at the end of the first half.
Leading 7-3, Seattle was on the march as the half wound down. Then bad things happened in threes as far as the Seahawks were concerned.
First came the announcement that Seattle placekicker Steven Hauschka, shaken up on a previous kickoff, was in the locker room being evaluated for a possible concussion.
The Seahawks next burned their final timeout to avoid a mandatory 10-second runoff resulting from a false start penalty in the final minute.
When the drive stalled on the Titan 2-yard line, Wilson spiked the ball on third down to stop the clock with two seconds remaining. Seattle coach Pete Carroll sent a makeshift field-goal unit onto the field, with punter Jon Ryan (normally the holder) as the kicker and reserve defensive back Chris Maragos as the holder.
Maragos, however, bobbled what appeared to be a perfect snap and compounded the problem by attempting to get rid of the ball. The end product was a fumble that cornerback Jason McCourty returned 77 yards for a touchdown and a stunning 10-7 Titan halftime lead.
There was some question whether Maragos’ knee was down before the ball came out, but the touchdown call was upheld on review.
“The Titans sort of deserve a touchdown on that due to ugliness (on the kick attempt),” one press-box inhabitant observed.
Carroll second-guessed his decision to attempt the field goal, later saying he should have kept his offensive unit on the field for one final try at the end zone.
“We couldn’t have handled it any worse,” the Seattle coach candidly acknowledged. “I put (Ryan and Maragos) out there and they shouldn’t have been out there.”
The Seahawks, incidentally, own the rare distinction of having every field-goal attempt this season result in points for one team or the other. Hauschka’s only miss this year was a blocked kick that Indianapolis returned for a touchdown last week.
To their credit, the Hawks were quickly able to put aside the latest bit of adversity.
“We needed to step up our game and play Seahawk football,” wide receiver Sidney Rice said. “At no time were we worried.”
It helped that another fumble bounced Seattle’s way in the second half.
After Hauschka (cleared for second-half duty) tied it with a 31-yard field goal in the third quarter, Wilson completed a 55-yard pass to a ridiculously wide-open Marshawn Lynch to put Seattle in scoring territory early in the final period.
The normally sure-handed Lynch fumbled inside the Tennessee 5-yard line but Titan linebacker Zach Brown, in attempting to scoop up the loose ball with an open field in front of him, succeeded only in muffing it. Wilson fell on the ball back on the Titan 11.
“I thought I was playing shortstop again,” joked Wilson, who had a short-lived career in professional baseball. “I saw the big hop and got it. That’s what they teach you in baseball.”
Hauschka’s subsequent 29-yard field goal put Seattle on top to stay. Following Richard Sherman’s interception of an ill-advised Fitzpatrick deep throw, the Hawks added a 3-yard Lynch touchdown run to increase the margin to 10 with 7:33 remaining.
The Titans closed the gap when their lone trip into the red zone resulted in a Rob Bironas field goal with 2:18 remaining. With all their timeouts, plus the two-minute warning, remaining, they eschewed an onside kick to boot deep. That strategy backfired when they jumped offside on a third-and-four play, enabling the Seahawks to run out the clock.
“You’ve got to win ugly sometimes,” Sherman insisted. “A win is a win.”
This win looked particularly attractive when it was accompanied by a New Orleans loss to New England that left the Seahawks and Saints tied for the best record in the National Football Conference. Fans inclined to look ahead will note Seattle and New Orleans will collide in a Monday night game Dec. 2 at CenturyLink Field.
The Seahawks still have some tests ahead, however, including their third game in 11 days Thursday at Arizona. Seattle won’t play on a Sunday again until next month. The Hawks follow the Arizona trip by visiting St. Louis in a Monday night game Oct. 28.
Rick Anderson is The Daily World sports editor. He can be reached at (360) 537-3924 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow the Daily World sports department on Twitter at @DW_GHSports.