SEATTLE – The homecoming for Tennessee quarterback Jake Locker was supposed to be a celebratory display of how much he had improved since he was a college star at Washington.
It would create an exciting matchup against the new king of quarterbacks in Seattle, Russell Wilson.
Due to a hip injury suffered two weeks ago, Locker will be a spectator Sunday when Tennessee visits Seattle with both teams trying to rebound from losses a week ago.
While Locker watches, Ryan Fitzpatrick will make his second straight start as the Titans attempt to bounce back from last week's loss to Kansas City and to snap Seattle's 10-game home win streak.
"It's tough. I was really looking forward to having the opportunity to play there and be able to play in front of family and friends and stuff. So it's hard," Locker said.
When the Titans get to Seattle, they'll find a Seahawks squad sour about how last week in Indianapolis ended. For a team that preaches finishing strong, the Seahawks were flattened in the fourth quarter by Andrew Luck and the Colts, outscored 11-0 and losing 34-28. It snapped a nine-game regular season win streak for the Seahawks, their last loss coming in November 2012 at Miami.
Here are five things to watch as the Seahawks close out a stretch of four straight against the AFC South, while the Titans start a run of three straight versus the NFC West:
FAST START: Tennessee can't afford another stumbling start like what it had a week ago against Kansas City. Fitzpatrick was incomplete on his first six passes and the Titans went three-and-out on their first five drives of the game. He didn't close very well either, intercepted twice in the final 6:14 of the game. He finished 21 of 41 for 247 yards and one TD.
"We can't go to Seattle, obviously, and start the way that we did this past weekend or we'll never get back into the game," Titans coach Mike Munchak said.
RUN RUSSELL RUN: Over the past two weeks, Wilson is the fifth-leading rusher in the NFL with 179 yards.
While the yardage Seattle's QB has generated is impressive, it hasn't come exactly as the Seahawks want. They want scrambling to be part of Wilson's game. But much of his running has been because of opposing pass rushers. Seattle's beat-up offensive line has been without three starters. Although the Seahawks are expected to have All-Pro center Max Unger back this week.
"We had to suffer through a little bit and that's why Russell has had to run more," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. "He has had to take off, in order to kind of even out that factor. So hopefully we should see us improve. We're counting on that."
THIRD DOWN SHOWDOWN: The Titans' defense may lack big names, but it's one of the best in the NFL at making life difficult for offenses on third downs. Tennessee held Kansas City to 1 of 12 on third downs last week and now gets a Seattle offense that has struggled to keep drives going the past two games. Seattle was 3 of 14 against Houston and just 2 of 12 on third down at Indianapolis. The output against the Colts was the worst for the Seahawks since 2011.
Tennessee's defense is third in the NFL at limiting opponents on third down.
"That's been our struggle for whatever reason," Wilson said. "We have had three offensive linemen out, so just being able to hang in there as long as I can and just play to the ball on time. I think that's the biggest thing, trying to make it work."
EXPLOSIVE PLAYS: Seattle has thrived on not giving up big plays defensively, but allowed Indianapolis six plays of 16 yards or more, including touchdowns of 73 and 29 yards. According to STATS, Seattle is tied for second in the league allowing only 12 plays of 20 yards or more this season.
THE NOISE: Tennessee tight end Delanie Walker knows just how noisy CenturyLink Field can get. He's experienced the earsplitting sound at nearly its peak, previously visiting Seattle as a member of the 49ers.
Tennessee is Seattle's only home game in a five-week span. The Seahawks haven't lost in Seattle since the final home game of the 2011 season and if they are going to remain a favorite in the NFC, they must hold serve on home field.
"The ground shakes, so that's different. For it being in a stadium and the ground shaking, that's intense," Walker said.
AP Sports Writer Teresa M. Walker in Nashville, Tenn., contributed to this report.
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