NASHVILLE, Tenn. – It was a tale of two halves for the Titans (1-4) in a crushing 29-28 defeat to the Cleveland Browns (2-2) Sunday at LP Field. The best of times in the first half got the Titans out to a 28-3 lead, only to see the worst of times in the final two quarters see that lead squandered away.
The Tennessee Titans battle the Cleveland Browns in a Week 5 matchup at LP Field. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)
Jake Locker got off to a hot start before having to leave the game with a hand injury. The Titans' starting QB finished 8-of-11 passing for 79 yards and a touchdown, adding four rushes for 34 yards and another score.
Backup Charlie Whitehurst filled in for Locker after the injury and continued Tennessee's offensive roll, throwing touchdowns on two of his first three passing attempts. Whitehurst finished the game 13-of-21 passing for 194 yards and two touchdowns.
Unfortunately, the Titans were shut out from the 2:44 mark of the second quarter on.
Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer led the comeback with two fourth quarter touchdown passes, both to Travis Benjamin, finishing with 292 yards, three touchdowns and one pick. Cleveland's starting running back Ben Tate returned to the field after missing two games with a knee injury. He piled up 123 yards on 22 carries.
Challenge Accepted by Titans Receivers
The Titans receiving corps were challenged to perform during the week and the group showed up on Sunday. Kendall Wright posted the first multiple touchdown game of his young career. Wright's first score came in space on an 11 yard catch and run. The second, also from 11 yards out, was an acrobatic grab in the back corner of the end zone.
Justin Hunter showed off his speed, burning a Browns corner in single coverage on an out-and-up route that went for a 75-yard touchdown. Hunter showed his effortless athleticism that everyone has been waiting to see this season.
Seven penalties for 68 yards don't appear to be an alarming number, but many were game-changing. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty cost the Titans a recovery of a Browns muffed punt. An illegal contact penalty negated Jason McCourty's interception and return to the Cleveland one yard line.
Both plays would have likely sealed a Titans win without the penalty.
Storyline Statistics: First Half
Total Yards: Ten – 284, Cle – 182
First Downs: Ten – 16, Cle – 11
Third Down Conversions: Ten – 4/5 (80%), Cle – 1/5 (20%)
Penalties (Yards): Ten – 3 (30), Cle – 6 (69)
Points: Ten – 28, Cle – 10
Storyline Statistics: Second Half
Total Yards: Ten – 126, Cle – 278
First Downs: Ten – 6, Cle – 16
Third Down Conversions: Ten – 4/9 (44.4%), Cle – 2/7 (28.5%)
Penalties: Ten – 4 (38), Cle – 1 (5)
Points: Ten – 0, Cle – 19
Again, it goes back to the tale of two halves.
Review of the Five Things to Watch:
- Fast Start Offensively **
After being forced to punt on their first possession, the Titans responded with a touchdown drive to end their first quarter scoreless drought. Jake Locker engineered a seven-play, 58-yard drive that culminated in an 11-yard catch-and-run by Kendall Wright.
The Titans followed up the score with a second touchdown drive on their very next possession. The drive started with a jet sweep to Kendall Wright that went for 38 yards. A Browns off-sides penalty on third down kept the Titans drive alive with Locker scrambling for an 11-yard touchdown on the very next play.
Locker took two vicious first half hits (both resulting in personal fouls) and was forced to leave the game late in the second quarter. Charlie Whitehurst entered the game and promptly threw an 11-yard touchdown to Kendall Wright in the back corner of the end zone.
After a Browns three and out, the Titans dialed up a bomb to Justin Hunter that connected for a 75-yard touchdown. The pass play was the longest career pass and catch for Charlie Whitehurst and Justin Hunter, respectfully.
A 28-10 half time lead is more than what the doctor ordered for the Titans.
- Third Down Efficiency**
Tennessee started red hot on third down, converting on 4-of-5 attempts in the first half. Going 4-of-9 in the second half still left the Titans over 50 percent for the game at (8/14). Defensively, the Titans did a fine job of stopping the Browns on third down all day as Cleveland went just 4-of-12.
3. Red Zone Efficiency
The Titans' offense converted all three first-half red zone trips into touchdowns. However, Tennessee failed to get inside the 20 in the final two quarters.
The defense continued to struggle in the red zone, allowing the Browns into the end zone on three out of their four trips inside the 20.
4. Pressure Brian Hoyer
The Titans hit Hoyer four times and sacked the Browns QB once on Sunday. Michael Griffin also intercepted Hoyer, marking the first Browns turnover this season.
5. Inactive Lists
Blidi Wreh-Wilson missed the game with a concussion suffered in last week's loss to the Colts. That meant Coty Sensabaugh, Marqueston Huff, and Brandon Harris all saw increased roles against the Browns. Sensabaugh had five total tackles and one pass defensed on third down.
Quote of the Day
"I mean all we can do is work, to be honest. This is disappointing. I just look forward to the next game and hopefully we can get this taste out of our mouth real soon." – Titans linebacker Kamerion Wimbley on the loss.