NASHVILLE – The Titans left Code Blue feeling, well, blue.
A mistake-filled first half provided too big of a hole for the Titans to climb out of in a 41-35 loss to the Cleveland Browns at Nissan Stadium.
With the loss, the Titans dropped to 8-4, and they're now tied with the Colts atop the AFC South heading into the final quarter of the season.
"We have to be better as a team – that is definitely not how we want to play our style of football. It's unacceptable how we played, and we have to be better,'' running back Derrick Henry said after the game. "It is tough when you spot a team 30 points, and you are playing from behind. It is hard to win when that margin is that large. In the second half, we gave ourselves a chance – I feel like we turned it around in all three phases. Nobody gave up, we kept fighting. We just came up short.
"I just know I have to be better; I pride myself as being a leader on this team. This one stung, and I feel like I didn't do the job the way I needed to. I have to be better."
This one was far from Henry's fault.
The Titans turned the ball over three times on Sunday, with two fumbles and an interception. The defense couldn't get off the field at the start, as the Browns scored touchdowns on five of their first six possessions.
It was 17-0 early, and it became 38-7 Browns by halftime.
"Bad communication, and bad execution," Titans safety Kevin Byard said. "You go out there and play like that, you get your behinds whooped. Credit to Cleveland – they were more prepared today, and they coached better and played better. So, that's what happened."
Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill completed 29-of-45 passes for 389 yards, with three touchdowns and an interception.
Titans receiver Corey Davis had 11 catches for 182 yards and a touchdown.
Henry carried the ball 15 times for 60 yards, with a fumble.
But on this day, the Titans didn't play enough defense, and they were way to sloppy.
As a result, a valiant comeback effort fell short. The Titans outscored the Browns 28-3 in the second half, but it wasn't enough.
"It was poor coaching, poor playing," Coach Mike Vrabel said of the start. "We couldn't get stops early and we weren't able to sustain any drives. … Things kind of snowballed.
"We just didn't play well enough early on to give ourselves any kind of chance. There's certainly never going to be a moral victory, but I think our charge is going to be trying to find a way to recreate what we did in the second half as we move forward."
The Titans got off to a miserable start. Despite showing some spunk in the second half, the Titans couldn't make things better as their comeback effort fell short.
The Browns jumped ahead 17-0 lead on after a 27-yard field goal from kicker Cody Parkey, and back-to-back touchdown passes from quarterback Baker Mayfield. Mayfield threw a two-yard touchdown pass to receiver Jarvis Landry before throwing a one-yard scoring toss to tackle Kendall Lamm.
The Titans got on the scoreboard in the second quarter, scoring on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Tannehill to Davis, which capped off a four-play, 74-yard drive that was jumpstarted by a 40-yard pass from Tannehill to receiver A.J. Brown.
But things got worse before they'd get better.
The Browns quickly jumped ahead 24-7 on a 75-yard touchdown pass from Mayfield to receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones, and then they scored on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Mayfield to receiver Rashard Higgins to make it 31-7 with 5:46 left in the second quarter. A one-yard touchdown run by running back Nick Chubb made it 38-7 at the half.
The Titans started fast in the second half, scoring 14 points in the first 5:52.
Tannehill connected with tight end MyCole Pruitt for a 22-yard touchdown pass, which capped off a quick, three-play, 75-yard scoring drive that took just 1:08 off the clock, and that made it 38-13.
Minutes later, the Titans scored again in wild fashion to cut the lead to 38-21 as Pruitt scooped up an A.J. Brown fumble and took it in for a three-yard score. Brown had reached the Cleveland three after a 16-yard catch from Tannehill, but his fumble set up Pruitt's chance to get a scoop and score.
A 43-yard field goal by Parkey stretched Cleveland's lead to 41-21 with 5:29 left in the third quarter.
The Titans were driving for more points late in the third quarter, but a Tannehill pass went off the hands of receiver Adam Humphries inside the 10-yard line, and it was intercepted by the Browns. It was a costly mistake in terms of momentum, and time on the clock.
Titans running back Jeremy McNichols scored on a one-yard touchdown run with 1:23 left to make it 41-28, and Tannehill connected with Cameron Batson for an eight-yard touchdown to make it 41-35 with 28 seconds left.
But that was the end of Tennessee's final threat, as they failed to get the onside kick, and the Browns ran out the clock.
"We have to take a real look at why this game went the way it did, and evaluate that, and make the corrections," Tannehill said. "Once we do that, we have to put it to bed and get ready for the next one. So, we have to learn from this one, clean some things up, obviously we didn't play well enough. And then come out on Wednesday (at practice) with a sense of urgency and carry that through kickoff (next Sunday)."
The Titans return to action next Sunday against the Jaguars in Jacksonville.
The Tennessee Titans take on the Cleveland Browns in Week 13 at Nissan Stadium.