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Seahawks don't discount Titans' running attack

By Alex Bigelow
Special to

Quantity but not quality has been the result for the Titans when it comes to their running game.

So far this season, the Titans have the fourth-most rushing attempts in the NFL (157), but have only produced 584 yards and three touchdowns. And with backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick under center as former first-round pick and Washington standout Jake Locker remains sidelined with an injured hip, the Seahawks aren't expecting any change in mentality come Sunday.

titans CJ
Titans running back Chris Johnson hasn't broke the 100-rushing yards plateau in a game this season, but he still has big-play ability, as evidenced by his 49-yard touchdown reception against Kansas City last week. (AP)

"I think they want to run the ball," Seahawks defensive tackle Brandon Mebane told 710 ESPN Seattle's "Bob and Groz" on Thursday. "Obviously with a lot of teams, the run sets up the pass, and I think that is what they want to do."

Running back Chris Johnson has taken a workhorse-like load for the Titans, but like much everything else concerning Tennessee's rushing attack, he's hasn't impressed. Johnson enters Sunday's matchup 18th in the league in total rushing yards with 294, but sixth in total carries with 94, and he has yet to record a rushing touchdown. Last week's 10-carry, 17-yard performance against the Chiefs was the lowest single-game total by Johnson since Week 1 against the Patriots last season.

Still, Johnson remains a threat given his big-play ability, that same ability he flashed last week after receiving a pass from Fitzpatrick behind the line of scrimmage and quickly turning into a 49-yard touchdown.

"I believe Chris Johnson is the fastest running back we will play this whole season," Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright said on "Seahawks Weekly" Thursday. "If you let him get a seam or get to the edge, (he) will be out of the gate."

Despite allowing just 16.2 points per game this season, the Seahawks' defense has left much to be desired when it comes to stopping the run. Seattle enters the Week 6 matchup allowing 109 yards per game on the ground (19th in the NFL), although that has done little to shake Wright's belief in Seattle's defensive unit.

"I believe this defense is the No. 1 defense in the NFL," said Wright, who will be starting at middle linebacker while Bobby Wagner nurses a sore ankle. "I really pride myself on, 'You're not going to run the football against us.'"

Mebane echoed Wright's sentiment: "We are still a great team. Once we pay attention to detail and (make) less mistakes, I think we can go to that next level."

Johnson isn't the only Titan living off a history of being a productive NFL starter. Fitzpatrick, while entering the season as Locker's backup, is only a year removed from throwing for 3,400 yards and 24 touchdowns for the Bills. The Harvard graduate made 52 starts over four years in Buffalo, even garnering a six-year, $59-million contract in 2011 after throwing for 3,832 yards and 24 touchdowns.

"We're not going to look at (Fitzpatrick) like, 'Oh, he is coming off the bench. You know, he doesn't have experience,'" Mebane said. "We are going to play him like he is a (true) starter."

In his first start for the Titans last week, Fitzpatrick was 21 of 41 passing for 247 yards and one touchdown versus two interceptions. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound quarterback also managed 50 rushing yards and a touchdown on six carries.


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