Seahawks' defense gives up too many big plays in loss to Titans

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Seattle Seahawks' defense is built around not allowing big plays.

It's why the Seahawks incessantly remind their cornerbacks to "stay on top" of receivers. It's why they'll often concede shorter plays underneath, allowing offenses to dink and dunk but not get deep. And it's why Seattle spent a first-round draft pick on free safety Earl Thomas and then gave him a $40 million extension to be the last line of defense.

The very thing that Seattle's defense has done so well under coach Pete Carroll was part of the team's undoing Sunday.

The Seahawks allowed two touchdowns of over 50 yards and another of 24 yards in a 33-27 loss to the Tennessee Titans. Those touchdowns came on three straight possessions in the third quarter as the Titans quickly turned a 9-7 halftime lead into a runaway.

"Really surprising ... to see big plays," Carroll said. "We just hadn't seen those. No explosive passes last week and we had a few today."

The Seahawks' defense forced three-and-outs on the Titans' first four possessions, continuing its strong play from the first two games. But then, in the words of linebacker K.J. Wright, "it just went south from there."

Rishard Matthews took a wide receiver screen and knifed through Seattle's defense for a 55-yard touchdown midway through the third quarter, giving the Titans a 16-14 lead after Seattle had jumped ahead. Linebacker Michael Wilhoite was beaten in coverage on a 24-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jonnu Smith on the Titans' next possession, and then DeMarco Murray broke loose for a 75-yard touchdown run, the longest against Seattle since 2009.

You just don't see teams doing to the Seahawks' defense what the Titans did while racking up 420 yards of total offense and a very healthy 6.3 yards per play.

"We let a lot of explosive plays get out, very uncharacteristic of us," Wright said. "Missed the easy stuff, too. We knew the Titans had a great offense, lots of trick stuff. And they got us on a few plays."

Seattle's offense bears some of the blame for what happened, even though it finished with 433 net yards while scoring six more points Sunday than what it had managed over the first two games. Much of that came after another slow start. The Seahawks punted on their first six possessions before mounting an impressive touchdown drive heading into halftime. Even with Seattle's defense playing stout through two quarters, the Titans held a time-of-possession advantage of 19:20 to 10:40 in the first half.

With the temperature in the high 80s at kickoff, being on the field that long may have taken a toll on Seattle's defense, even if no player used that as an excuse.

"I think it did some," Carroll said.

The Seahawks are by no means doomed at 1-2. They return home next week to face an Indianapolis Colts team that may again be without quarterback Andrew Luck. Their offense showed long-awaited progress Sunday, and the season is only three games old.

But for a defense that holds itself to an exceedingly high standard, this one won't sit well.

"We get paid a lot to not make those mistakes," Wright said. "This defense [has been] No. 1 the past few years for a reason, so we've got to get rid of that."