NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans couldn't protect a 28-3 lead Sunday, losing 29-28 to the Cleveland Browns, who recorded the biggest comeback in NFL history by a road team.
"I think it's probably the worst loss we've had," Titans tight end Delanie Walker said. "It was 28-3, and we lost the game by one point."
Justin Hunter, who caught a 75-yard TD pass that gave the Titans their biggest lead late in the first half, said he was just speechless.
"We had the game," Hunter said. "We should have finished and won. I'm at a loss for words. It's definitely devastating. We had a lead like that and end up losing it like that."
The Titans (1-4) also lost quarterback Jake Locker to an injured right thumb, just one of several injuries. Tennessee coach Ken Whisenhunt said safety Bernard Pollard, who left on crutches, may have hurt his right Achilles tendon. Cornerback Coty Sensabaugh hurt his right knee and tight end Craig Stevens missed almost the whole game with an injured thigh.
It marked worst blown lead by this franchise since the then-Houston Oilers blew a 35-3 lead in Buffalo in the playoffs on Jan. 3, 1993.
Brian Hoyer threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Travis Benjamin with 1:09 left as the Browns finished off their rally with 26 unanswered points, including 16 in the fourth quarter for the biggest comeback in team history.
Only two other clubs have come back from bigger deficits in the regular season. San Francisco rallied from 28 down in beating New Orleans on Dec. 7, 1980, and Buffalo trailed 26-0 before beating Indianapolis 37-35 on Sept. 21, 1997.
On Sunday, the Browns (2-2) won a road game for the first time since beating Minnesota on Sept. 22, 2013.
"It's just good to win," Hoyer said. "I said when we broke it down, 'Let's just win one by two touchdowns one week and not give everybody a heart attack.' It's great to always win, but to win coming back and know that you battled your butt off is a great feeling."
Locker didn't return after hurting his right thumb in the second quarter. X-rays were negative, but he'll have more tests Monday. Backup Charlie Whitehurst helped add to the lead, but then couldn't protect it.
Tennessee turned the ball over on downs at the Titans 42 with 3:03 left when the Browns stopped Whitehurst on fourth down and less than a yard to go. Whitehurst said he didn't hear a whistle stopping his forward progress, and he finished by sticking the ball out for what Whisenhunt thought was the first down.
The Titans coach said he did think about punting.
The Tennessee Titans battle the Cleveland Browns in a Week 5 matchup at LP Field. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)
"I felt like with Cleveland having one timeout, we had a chance to win the game," Whisenhunt said.
Hoyer finished off the record comeback with his second TD to Benjamin in the quarter for Cleveland's first lead.
The Titans had one last chance with 1:09 left. But time expired just after Whitehurst found Kendall Wright on a pass past midfield.
Whisenhunt streamlined his offense, and it worked as the Titans scored on two of their first three drives.
Locker was leading an 80-yard drive when cornerback Buster Skrine blitzed, hitting Locker in the head. Locker's hand hit Skrine's helmet as he threw, and the quarterback immediately signaled first down before going to the sideline, then to the locker room.
Two of Whitehurst's first three passes went for TDs, with the second a career long of 75 yards to Justin Hunter for a 28-3 lead late in the first half. That was it for the Titans' offense as the Browns cranked up their comeback.
NOTES: The Titans remembered Rob Bironas with a blue No. 2 on the back of their helmets and a moment of silence in their first home game since their former kicker died Sept. 20 in a one-vehicle crash. ... Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is from Knoxville, Tennessee, and his brother, Bill, is governor.