The Titans and Browns met today in a clash of 8-3 AFC playoff contenders. It was expected to be the top game on the slate for the Noon CT window with the highest game total (54) of any matchup this week, but the Browns quickly made sure it wouldn’t be a competitive contest.
Here’s how it went down…
The Browns started with the football and opened the game with a bang, with Baker Mayfield finding a wide open Rashard Higgins for 35 yards on the third play from scrimmage. Nick Chubb ripped off a nice run to put the Browns in the red zone, but then the bend-don’t-break defense locked down Cleveland, forcing Cody Parkey to try a 27-yard field goal.
After picking up 18 yards on a pass to Corey Davis, the Titans’ attempted response was derailed by a third-and-one trick play leak out to backup guard Aaron Brewer, who lined up as a jumbo tight end but dropped Ryan Tannehill’s pass. The Titans went for it on fourth and one with Derrick Henry, who appeared to clear the line to gain by at least half a yard, but the ball was spotted short and the call was upheld after a Mike Vrabel challenge. Browns took over on downs.
In a flash, the Browns were back in Tennessee territory. A roughing penalty against Rashaan Evans on a Jarvis Landry pass to Mayfield advanced the ball further, and a few plays later, Mayfield found Landry in the back of the end zone. Browns went up by two scores early.
On the first play of the Titans next possession, Sheldon Richardson blew past Nate Davis into the backfield and stripped the ball from Henry. The Browns pounced on it to take over at the TEN 21. Passes to Landry and an encroachment penalty set up third and goal from the one.
End 1Q — Titans 0, Browns 10.
On a trick play to open the second quarter, the Browns snuck an extra OL-man out on a route, and Mayfield hit him wide open for a touchdown.
Finally, the Titans offense woke up. A pair of big completions to A.J. Brown, including a 40 yarder, set up a Tannehill touchdown to Corey Davis, who made a leaping grab over Browns CB Kevin Johnson to put the Titans on the board. Brown survived an injury scare and was able to walk off the field.
On the very next play after the kickoff, Mayfield faked a handoff to Chubb and hit a streaking Donovan Peoples-Jones down the sideline after Breon Borders bit hard on the playfake. DPJ took it to the house with no defender close to extend the Browns lead.
Offensive coordinator Arthur Smith elected to go away from Brown and Davis on the next possession, and the Titans went three and out. With very little resistance, the Browns marched 90 yards in 11 plays and easily scored another touchdown.
A third-down sack completed the Titans subsequent three-and-out, and Brett Kern punted back to Cleveland trailing by more than three touchdowns. With the defense still fast asleep, the Browns cruised back down the field, and Chubb got into the end zone with 55 seconds left in the half.
END 1H — Titans 7, Browns 38.
While the game appeared over at halftime, the Titans did as well as they could’ve hoped on their second-half opening possession. Tannehill drove them 75 yards in three plays, hitting MyCole Pruitt for an easy touchdown and taking just 1:08 off the clock (but failing to convert the 2-pt try).
A holding penalty on the Browns ensuing possession led to a conservative three-and-out for Cleveland. They punted it back to Tennessee still in the first four minutes of the quarter.
Continuing to feed Davis, the Titans again zipped down the field. From just outside the 20-yard line, Tannehill hit Brown, who lost the ball right in front of the goal line. Pruitt was there for the timely scoop and he took it in for his second straight score. Titans narrowed the gap further with a successful two-point conversion.
On the Browns next drive, they were able to convert a 3rd and 12 before Chubb ripped off a 29-yard run. But the defense stiffened from there, forcing a 43-yard field goal, which Parkey knocked through to keep the Titans at bay.
The Titans drove down looking to get back into the game, with Cam Batson making an incredible effort to secure a fourth-down catch in scoring territory. But on the next play, Tannehill’s well-thrown pass went through Adam Humphries’ hands, hit him in the facemask, and bounced into the air, where it was picked off by a Browns defender.
END 3Q — Titans 21, Browns 41.
The Titans defense came up with a much-needed three-and-out as the fourth quarter began, but garbage time had firmly arrived. The Browns killed some clock before the teams traded punts. Tennessee put another meaningless scoring drive together, with Davis hitting a career-high in receptions and receiving yards (11 for 182 and a TD) before Jeremy McNichols punched it in from the one-yard line for his first career touchdown.
The Titans failed to recover an onside kick with less than two minutes to play. While trying to run out the clock, Mayfield was stripped and Vaccaro returned the ball to the CLE 13-yard line with 48 seconds to go. After three straight incompletions, Tannehill hit Batson on 4th and 10, who made a spectacular toe-tapping grab in the front corner of the end zone to make the end of the game just a bit more intriguing.
But the Browns again recovered the Titan’s onside kick try, and that would be enough to close out the win for Cleveland.
Final: Titans 35, Browns 41
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