MMQB: Titans 17, Seahawks 13

Matt Hasselbeck and the Seattle Seahawks closed out their 2009 season with a 17-13 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.

Tennessee Titans 17, Seattle Seahawks 13
Sunday, January 3, 2010
Qwest Field
Seattle, WA

Play of the Day: 4th-and-9 on the Titans' 27-yard line, Seahawks quarterback threw a pass towards Justin Forsett near the first-down marker, but Titans' rookie linebacker Gerald McRath stepped in and intercepted it, ending the Seahawks' drive and 2009 season.

Handouts to the Standouts

Third-year linebacker Will Herring was making plays all over the field, posting 7 tackles and forcing a Chris Johnson fumble in the third quarter.

Forsett, Jones and the Seahawks running game picked things up in the season finale, out-running Johnson with 135 yards on 24 carries (Johnson had 134 yards on 36 carries).

After taking some heat in this space last week, safety Deon Grant had a big day, posting a team-high 9 tackles and doing his best Ken Griffey, Jr. impression by playing centerfield in intercepting an overthrown deep ball by Vince Young in the 1st quarter. Grant also recovered the fumble that Herring caused.

Things That Made Me Go "Blech!"

After a 17-yard run by Forsett, which included a combination of strong running through some pretty shoddy tackling from the Titans and a great downfield block by Hasselbeck, the Seahawks had 1st-and-Goal from the Titans' 2-yard in a tie game early in the fourth quarter.

Here's what Seahawks offensive coordinator Greg Knapp dialed up:

1st-and-Goal: Zebra personnel (1 RB, 3WR), Knapp sends Forsett up the middle. No gain.
2nd-and-Goal: Zebra personnel. Fade route to Deon Butler. Incomplete.
3rd-and-Goal: Zebra personnel. Incomplete pass to Houshmandzadeh in the end zone, where Hasselbeck and Houshmandzadeh had another bout of miscommunication.

Olinda Mare hit a 20-yard field goal, but Seattle clearly squandered a heaping dose of momentum and should've put 7 points on the board from six feet out.

Offense

Behind an improved running game, Seattle's offense was slightly more productive this week, gaining 309 yards of total offense, the second-highest total during the second half of the season. 140 of those yards came on the ground, as Forsett (10-74-0) and Jones (14-61-0) split the carries behind an improved run-blocking offensive line.

Seattle's line continues to struggle in pass protection, though, as Hasselbeck had very little time in completing 15-of-30 passes for 175 yards and a 6-yard touchdown to John Carlson, who scored in a fourth straight game and added to his team-high with a 7th touchdown reception on the season.

Hasselbeck was sacked three times, including twice on the team's first five plays from scrimmage, and was hit on a two-step drop in the fourth quarter. (A third QB sack was due to excellent coverage)

When Hasselbeck did have time, the bulk of his passes were to radio stars Deion Branch and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who were targeted 14 times and combined for 7 receptions and 143 yards. Both made plays after the catch, which was a rarity for these two receivers this season.

No other Seahawks receiver caught more than two passes, with Carlson and Forsett catching 2 for 14 yards, and Griffith catching 2 for 9 yards. Third-round pick Deon Butler was thrown to three times, but caught none.

Defense

There's no shame in being the team that allowed Chris Johnson to break the 2,000 yards rushing barrier, since he wouldn't have been within 128 yards of that mark if he didn't have some good days against the rest of the NFL.

Aside from Frank Gore's 206 yards in Week 2, the Seahawks run defense has been a bright spot this season. Linebackers Herring, Grant, David Hawthorne, and Darryl Tapp made a lot of tackles on Sunday, but holding a dynamic play-maker like Johnson to 3.7 yards per carry is something the entire defense can be proud of.  

When Seattle struggled on Sunday, it was usually when they'd remove Hill and Herring and bring in "Dime" personnel, with Jordan Babineaux sliding to cornerback and Lawyer Milloy entering the game at safety. Unofficially, the Seahawks used "dime" 21 times on Sunday, including 12 times on third downs. Seattle won on seven of those, although they did allow 8 yards on a 3rd-and-9 on the Titans' opening drive that prompted Jeff Fisher to go for it on 4th-and-1, where Johnson scored a touchdown from six yards out.

As it was throughout the season, the Seahawks' pass-rush was non-existent on Sunday. Only Tapp can boast can of getting a hit on Titans' quarterback Vince Young, who attempted 28 passes. One positive from a pass-rush standpoint was that the Seahawks coverage and offensive line forced Young to occasionally throw the ball away, and kept him in the pocket so he couldn't use his legs to pick up huge chunks of yardage.

Cornerback Marcus Trufant's forgettable season continued when he got turned around by Titans wide receiver Nate Washington for a 29-yard reception that gave the Titans first-and-goal from the Seahawks 2-yard line in the fourth quarter.

Unlike the Seahawks, other teams are quite capable of punching it in from that distance.

Special Teams

Once again, I'm not able to boast of a 50-yard field goal by Olindo Mare, because despite Mare having a powerful leg, the Seahawks went the entire 2009 season without attempting one. (Must've been that one preseason miss that kept Mora from calling for one) Mare kicked off four times, putting two in the end zone, but all four were returnable.

Punter Jon Ryan struggled on Sunday, dropping a snap from Kevin Houser that led to an adventurous 19-yard rugby-style punt that had a 14-yard net as the Seahawks were flagged for having an illegal man downfield, giving the Titans excellent field position. They'd score the game-winning touchdown five-plays and 2:26 later.

Nick Reed continued his excellent special teams play, leading the team with a pair of special teams tackles and alertly letting the opening kick of the second half go out of bounds.

Summary

Well, it's over.

The Seahawks are now 9-23 over the last two seasons, and enter what will be the franchise's most important off-season since after the 1998 season.

First order of business will be to find a general manager.

As I've noted, the Seahawks need to completely abandon the "We're not going to join them, they're going to join us" approach Seahawks CEO Tod Leiweke described last month to finding a new general manager.

No candidate should be dismissed based on the size of broom he brings to the interview. Seattle's new "leader" needs full autonomy to turn this franchise back into a perennial playoff contender, even if it means the front office personnel, coaching staff, and yes, star quarterback, aren't a part of that future.

In addition to writing for NorthwestFootball.net, Brian McIntyre blogs daily at Mac's Football Blog. You can follow Brian on Twitter, and if you'd like to e-mail him, you can always do so by clicking here.

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