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Seahawks blow 15-point halftime lead as offense stalls late in OT loss to Titans

Tennessee Titans kicker Randy Bullock (14) celebrates with tight end Geoff Swaim (87) as Seattle Seahawks defensive back Ryan Neal (26) reacts after Bullock kicked a field goal in overtime to give the Titans a 33-30 win in an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in Seattle.  (Associated Press)
By Bob Condotta Seattle Times

A day that began so festively – a concert by Macklemore and Ayron Jones to welcome back fans to Lumen Field for the first time in 630 days for a regular-season game with legendary receiver Doug Baldwin raising the 12th Man flag – ended in one of the most disastrous losses for the Seahawks in recent memory.

Seattle blew a 15-point halftime lead and 14 early in the fourth quarter as the Titans rallied for a 33-30 overtime win.

Tennessee did so behind a punishing running attack led by Derrick Henry, who had all but 35 of his 182 yards after halftime, while its much-maligned defense put the clamps on a Seattle offense that got just six points and six first downs after halftime.

And the Titans took advantage of a Seattle team that was often its own worst enemy – six of Tennessee’s first downs were via Seahawks penalties, four after halftime. Seattle had 10 penalties for 100 yards overall.

It added up to a Seattle team that prides itself on finishing games instead enduring the indignity of one of the biggest collapses in team history.

Seattle entered the day 65-2 in games when it had a lead of four or more points at halftime since 2012, when Russell Wilson arrived.

And it was the second-biggest blown lead in a loss of the Pete Carroll era, surpassed only by an overtime loss at Cincinnati in 2015 when the Seahawks blew a 17-point lead.

Only 10 other times in team history had Seattle blown a bigger lose to lose a game.

“Most difficult loss for us today,” Carroll said.

And he pointed first to all the yellow flags.

Carroll blamed in part that “sometimes I get these guys so fricking crazy that they’re just going out after it.”

Maybe the excitement of playing in front of fans amped up for a regular-season home game might also have contributed.

“We can’t have those penalties,” said safety Jamal Adams. “At the end of the day, we have a job to do. We have to have controlled chaos, is what I call it. It’s an even-keel mindset. We can’t have those penalties in crucial situations.”

Adams had one of the key flags himself – a roughing-the-passer call on Tennessee’s Ryan Tannehill on the first possession of overtime that negated a third down stop. Tennessee didn’t score on the drive. But the penalty meant that when Seattle did get the ball on its only overtime possession, it did so at the 13 instead of potentially near midfield.

Seattle then had to punt from its own 1. The Titans took over at the Seattle 39 and ran four plays to set up Randy Bullock’s game-winning 36-yard field goal.

Adams took exception to his penalty saying, “obviously, this is an offensive league. They’re going to protect the quarterback. Bang-bang situation. I don’t agree with it, but at the end of the day, they called it; can’t happen. I have to be smarter in that situation. But, I don’t really agree.”

But the penalties don’t excuse an offense that never really moved the ball consistently all day, instead getting 234 of its 397 yards on five plays. Seattle managed just 163 yards on its other 47 plays.

The big plays included a 63-yard Wilson to Tyler Lockett pass for a TD in the first half as well as a 51-yarder to Lockett that set up a field goal. Another first-half TD came on a 6-yard drive following a Tannehill fumble forced by Alton Robinson.

Seattle’s only real sustained drive came when the Seahawks went up-tempo to end the first half and moved 75 yards in seven plays to take a 24-9 lead.

Seattle punted on four of its six drives after halftime with another ending when the clock ran out in regulation. Seattle’s only score came on a three-play drive capped by a 68-yard Wilson pass to Freddie Swain, who broke stunningly open behind a Tennessee blown coverage.

“I think that Tennessee did a great job in the second half,” Lockett said. “Even on the first drive when we got the ball moving, just the fact that they kind of did a corner blitz, it caught us a little bit off guard. It kind of stopped the progression that we had moving the ball down field. I think they just had some good calls going into our last couple of drives.”

But indicating the second-half struggle for a Seattle offense that looked so dynamic in the opener is that the Seahawks had only 77 yards on 18 plays – 25 on one run by Alex Collins.

Carroll said the Titans didn’t change much as the game wore on but that “we just weren’t as clean as we needed to be. The third downs (Seattle was just 4-12) we need to go a little bit more in our favor, keep the thing moving.”

Then there was Henry, whom Seattle seemed to have largely contained until he ripped off a 60-yard TD run with 12:17 left in the game. That came two plays after Swain’s TD had put the Seahawks up 30-16. Adams blitzed on the play and got blocked, which helped create an opening.

“We were too aggressive on the edge,” Carrol said. “… All day long we fought to not let that happen and then it finally did.”

The play, though, was also indicative of Tennessee not giving up on the run to Henry – who last year had 2,027 yards – even after falling behind. Henry had 107 yards on 13 carries in the fourth quarter and overtime.

“They were in a game that they like, where they can keep on pounding away and they were very conservative with it and after awhile you’re going to make some yards,” Carroll said.

The pounding left the Seahawks stunned, blowing a chance to get to 2-0 as they now play their next four games against teams that all made the playoffs last year, three on the road.

“Sometimes (stuff) just happens, man,” Adams said, using a less-newspaper friendly word for stuff. “Sometimes it just happens.”

The Seahawks can only hope it doesn’t happen again anytime soon.