By Brent Stecker
At this point, it's become expected – if it's a Seahawks win, Richard Sherman's fingerprints will be all over it.
Once again, Sherman was the saving grace for the Seahawks' struggling offense in their 20-13 win over Tennessee, as the star cornerback's interception put Russell Wilson and Co. back on the field in the fourth quarter just one play after Steven Hauschka's field goal put them ahead 13-10.
Richard Sherman's third interception of the season set up the Seahawks' final touchdown in their 20-13 win. (AP)
The Titans made the unwise choice to test Sherman on their first offensive play of the final frame, as quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick took a long shot aimed at receiver Nate Washington along the sideline. Sherman showed why you just don't do that, leaping in front of Washington to haul in his third pick of the year and keep momentum firmly in the Seahawks' favor.
Sherman said the plan was to force Fitzpatrick into throwing at him, and the plan worked to perfection.
"We tried to funnel the ball to me. We sent Earl (Thomas) away, so he leaned to the other side so they wouldn't throw it over there. Make them try their shot with me," Sherman said on the postgame show on 710 ESPN Seattle. "They did that, I was able to capitalize. It was just good team football. I gotta give credit to Earl, Kam (Chancellor), BB (Brandon Browner) for making adjustments and making sure we got it."
Thomas, one of the safeties on the play, credited Sherman's fundamentals for the interception.
"We were in zone right there, and (Sherman) does a great job with his technique," said Thomas, who also had an interception in the game. "So polished, best corner in the league, and he just shows up week in and week out."
That play put the ball at Seattle's 41, and seven plays later running back Marshawn Lynch (77 yards rushing, 78 yards receiving, two touchdowns) was in the end zone with a three-yard plunge to put the score just about out of reach for Tennessee with 7:37 to go.
It wasn't just the one play, however. Sherman and the rest of Seattle's secondary gave Fitzpatrick (two interceptions) and his receivers fits, holding the Titans to 171 yards on 17 for 29 passing and no touchdowns.
As for Seattle's defense as a whole, it kept Tennessee's offense entirely out of the end zone (the Titans' lone touchdown was a fumble recovery on a disastrous botched Seahawks field-goal try at the end of the second quarter), and only yielded 66 yards on the ground (33 each to Fitzpatrick and running back Chris Johnson).
"We checked the line, we eliminated explosive plays," defensive end Red Bryant said. "The only thing that I felt we could've done better was contain the quarterback just a little bit better. But all in all, extremely proud of our effort."
The ballad of Steven Hauschka
Hauschka took a nasty hit trying to tackle Titans return man Darius Reynaud on a kickoff in the second quarter, and he missed the rest of the half as he was checked out for a concussion. That meant he was unavailable when the Seahawks tried a 20-yard field goal on the final play of the first half, which turned into an unmitigated disaster.
Filling in for Hauschka was punter Jon Ryan (the usual holder), and he didn't even get a chance to kick the ball because holder Chris Maragos muffed the snap, then fumbled to Tennessee's Jason McCourty, who returned the ball 77 yards for the Titans' only touchdown of the day.
Luckily for Seattle, Hauschka returned after halftime to kick the tying and go-ahead field goals (31 and 29 yards, respectively). Maragos, meanwhile, is unlikely to remain the backup holder.
"That's under question now, don't you think," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said when asked if Maragos had entered the game as the designated backup holder. "I think the next time out, Russell (Wilson) is going to handle that."
Wilson and Hauschka were college teammates at North Carolina State.
• Carroll said DE Chris Clemons, who left the game in the second half, suffered a hyperextended elbow. Clemons has played in just four games this season after recovering from a torn ACL, and Carroll said that while the injury doesn't appear serious, he doesn't have a lot of confidence that Clemons will be ready to go for Thursday's game at Arizona.
"X-rays were negative. He has a sore elbow right now," Carroll said. "Coming back on Thursday, that might be hard. We'll see what happens."