In a game that was higher-scoring and more lopsided than I anticipated, the Tennessee Titans today scored a decisive victory over the Cleveland Browns by a final score of 31-13. The Titans took control of the game in the second quarter with a pair of scores, one early and one late, and effectively ended it with an interception Jordan Babineaux returned 97 yards for score late in the third quarter. The Browns had a bunch of yards and added a score, but the game was never again competitive.
For me, the Browns essentially lost the game on five big mistakes:
- Linebacker Chris Gocong lost contain on a cutback by Chris Johnson. One false step later, Chris Johnson had his longest run of the year, for 25 yards. One third down conversion later…
- Matt Hasselbeck threw his first touchdown pass of the day, to a wide open Craig Stevens. The playcall was a simple smash combination, and both corner Sheldown Brown and linebacker D’Qwell Jackson took Nate Washington, and the safety couldn’t get over in time. Titans lead, 7-3.
- After a Browns field goal, Matt Hasselbeck found Jared Coook on a drag route over the middle. Cook ran by linebacker Scott Fujita, and then defensive back Usama Young was slow to react, took a bad angle, and then tried to bring Cook down from behind. It didn’t work, and Cook raced 80 yards to give the Titans a 14-6 lead.
- Late in the first half, the Titans ran a run-and-shoot staple, the old “switch” play. Nate Washington ended up with no defender covering him, and picked up 57 yards down to the 4. One play later, Matt Hasselbeck had his third touchdown pass of the game, and the Titans had a 21-6 halftime lead.
- Down 24-6, the Browns have first-and-10 at the Titans’ 29. Colt McCoy scrambles right after pass pressure from Shaun Smith, and throws the ball away. Unfortunately, rather than throwing the ball away, he throws it right to Jordan Babineaux, who takes it back 97 yards for a score and a 31-6 Titans lead.
The Titans, by contrast, didn’t have any of those killer mistakes. The Browns had a couple bigger passing plays that helped set up their two early field goals, but otherwise had to chisel out gains in smaller chunks. They made it to Titans territory on their first five possessions, but only got those two field goals and didn’t crack the red zone until the fourth quarter.
There was, of course, more to today’s game than that, like Chris Johnson’s most productive day this year and Jake Locker making his NFL debut in garbage time (his only attempt fell incomplete), but it’s a big play and passing league, and the Titans had those today and the Browns didn’t.