NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Pete Carroll has been studying Dick LeBeau since he went into coaching himself, and now the Seattle head coach finds himself facing off again against the defensive coordinator now with the Tennessee Titans.
Carroll knows one thing for sure. All that study won’t help his Seahawks come Sunday.
“He’s evolved,” Carroll said. “He’s never gotten stagnant. He continues to add stuff. I’ve seen it for so many years and studied it for so many years.
“He is doing new things and you don’t know what he is going to do, you just have to wait until game time and adjust during game time. He makes it very difficult.”
The Titans (1-1) smothered Jacksonville 37-16 with two sacks, two interceptions and a fumble recovery. LeBeau also has a quartet of pass rushers he can turn loose in linebackers Brian Orakpo, Derrick Morgan and Erik Walden and Pro Bowl tackle Jurrell Casey.
Under Carroll, Seattle has been one of the NFL’s best defenses and ranked fifth overall last season.
“Many of the same players are running the same system,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. “Many of the same players are good players. That’s enough, isn’t it?”
The Seahawks find themselves leaning on that defense again until Russell Wilson and the offense get going. Seattle scored its lone touchdown this season in last week’s 12-9 win over San Francisco . That’s just fine with cornerback Richard Sherman .
“There are a lot of guys who have played championship winning football, and we would expect nothing else,” Richard Sherman said.
Here are some things to know about the Seahawks’ visit to Nashville:
SOMETHING’S GOT TO GIVE
This game features the NFL’s two best quarterbacks since 2015 when playing the other conference with a minimum of 200 passes. Wilson is 7-1 against the AFC with a 124.5 passer rating to go with 23 TDs and only two interceptions. Mariota, drafted in 2015, ranks second with a 121.4 passer rating against NFC teams throwing 18 TDs and three interceptions and a 5-2 record. Mariota brings a three-game winning streak into this game, while Wilson has won seven straight against the AFC.
The status of tight end Jimmy Graham is uncertain after he suffered a sprained ankle last week against San Francisco, but the Seahawks are hopeful their big target in the middle will play. But will they actually use him? In two games, Graham has just three catches for 9 yards, and Seattle seems as baffled as ever about how to adequately use him. Seattle certainly looked Graham’s way in the opener targeting him seven times, but the ankle injury early against San Francisco limited his chances.
STOP THE RUN
The Seahawks made a couple of assignment errors and gave up a pair of big runs last week. The 49ers finished with 159 yards rushing, the second-most allowed by the Seahawks since the start of the 2015 season. The challenge now is trying to shut down the three-headed combo of Derrick Henry, Pro Bowl running back DeMarco Murray and Mariota. The Titans ran for 179 yards against the Jaguars.
“It’s fun to get something different versus the regular run plays you’ve seen since pee-wee football,” Seattle linebacker K.J. Wright said.
“It’s fun to see something different. It’s good to have that challenge. You get to see how well we play off the ball, how well our eyes are, how disciplined they are. This is a good test for us to see how good we can play these runs.”
The Titans are trying to rebuild a home-field advantage after so many struggling seasons. They went 5-3 last season, winning their final four home games in a span featuring victories over Green Bay and Denver.
A loss to Oakland in the opener snapped that streak. Jurrell Casey said it’s important to pick that back up, especially against one of the NFL’s top teams. “We’ve got to handle business,” Casey said.
Seattle is still trying to figure out its running backs. Rookie Chris Carson has gotten the bulk of the carries through two games, including 20 for 93 yards last week. Thomas Rawls is expected to be without restrictions after being limited last week while recovering from a high ankle sprain. Then there is Eddie Lacy, who was surprisingly inactive last week because of roster needs at other positions.
AP Sports Writer Tim Booth in Seattle contributed to this report.