Titans' Challenge? Wrap up Preseason on Short Week

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee didn't leave Cleveland with a win. What Jeff Fisher saw out of his Titans might be as good as a victory.

The coach wanted improvement out of his Titans after a sloppy loss in Dallas. He got it from the first-team offense, which turned in its longest drive of the preseason, and from the first-team defense, which kept Cleveland out of the end zone and a 7-3 halftime lead before being subbed out in what turned into a 23-17 loss Saturday night to the Browns.

Fisher called it a game of two teams with very separate goals with Cleveland playing its starters much longer trying to find a starting quarterback.

"We went in there trying to get quality reps for a team in a preseason game. We did, and we subbed. I was proud of the way the guys that did sub that faced their starters battled," Fisher said Sunday.

The offensive production was the most impressive, especially from a first-team unit that was missing starting receiver Nate Washington with an injured left hamstring, leaving rookie Kenny Britt to get his first NFL start. Kerry Collins called it the Titans' best effort this preseason.

"I thought we had good tempo, and we made some plays and overcame a couple situations. I know we had a third and long and we were able to come back and get a first down off of that. We'd like to cap it off with a couple touchdowns, but I thought, all in all, it was a better effort," Collins said.

The Titans opened with another three-and-out just as they did in Dallas.

But the first-team offense came back with a 12-play, 75-yard drive that was the unit's longest through four exhibitions, and Collins was nearly perfect. The 36-year-old quarterback was 6 of 7 for 60 yards on the drive with the one incompletion dropped by receiver Justin Gage. The receiver came back and finished the drive with a 6-yard touchdown catch.

The drive also featured a nifty move by Collins after bobbling a shotgun snap. He picked up the ball and tossed a dart to Chris Johnson for 15 yards.

Tennessee held the ball for more than 17 minutes in the first half after a 14-play, 70-yard drive. The Titans racked up 201 yards offense, and Collins left with 120.8 passer rating. Chris Johnson had as many yards rushing (27) as he had combined through the first three exhibitions and All Pro center Kevin Mawae played 27 snaps -- nearly twice what they had hoped.

"I don't foresee myself cutting back or slowing down at this point," Mawae said after the game. "It's full-speed ahead from here on out."

The lone lowlight offensively came when Rob Bironas' 27-yard field goal attempt was blocked in the second quarter. Fisher said the Titans got lazy on that play.

The defense got back starting middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch for the first time this preseason but did not have starting cornerback Nick Harper or tackle Jason Jones. The unit held Cleveland to a field goal after the Browns got to the Titans 9, and forced two punts.

Vince Young? Well, Fisher said Sunday Young remains the Titans' backup quarterback, and Young showed signs of maturity by taking the blame for a bad interception and bouncing back with a touchdown drive. Young also fumbled just before halftime when he had a chance to cap a strong 2-minute drive, getting the ball knocked out as he ran toward the goal line.

Fisher said he would hope Young would throw that ball away in a regular-season game in a similar situation with little time left on the clock or go up over the top to score.

"I thought he did a good job," Fisher said.

Now Fisher is turning his attention to the NFL season opener on Sept. 10 even though his Titans (2-2) still have one game left to wrap up the preseason. He swapped up his schedule Sunday, scratching a planned practice Monday to give his players an extra day to recover.

The Titans host Green Bay (3-0) on Thursday night, then must trim the roster with only seven days between the preseason finale and the season opener at Pittsburgh.

"This is a unique challenge for us," Fisher said.

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