Browns 41, Titans 35: Five observations as the Titans fail to handle Browns passing raid
The rout was revenge in a way.
The Titans went to Cleveland last season in Week 1 and blew out the Browns 43-13, the most points they scored in 2019. The Browns returned the favor Sunday at Nissan Stadium.
It wasn't the NFL's leading rushing attack (161.4 yards per game) that roughed up the Titans defense. Instead, quarterback Baker Mayfield tossed four touchdowns in the first half to separate the two teams the rest of the way.
Despite back-to-back touchdown drives to begin the third quarter, and the fourth-quarter point surge from the Titans (8-4), Mayfield and the Browns (9-3) were too much and held on for a 41-35 win.
Baker Mayfield’s passing secures Browns win
Mayfield was the first Browns quarterback since Otto Graham in 1951 to throw four touchdowns in a single game.
Wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones dropped a potential touchdown pass in the red zone on the Browns’ first offensive drive. The rookie redeemed himself, catching two passes for 92 yards and a touchdown.
Mayfield was only forced to throw the ball away twice. He was otherwise unfazed in the pocket.
Titans cornerbacks Malcolm Butler and Breon Borders were overwhelmed by receivers Jarvis Landry and Rashard Higgins. Landry caught eight balls for 62 yards, while Higgins reeled in six for 95 yards. All three – Peoples-Jones, Higgins and Landry – scored.
Derrick Henry was contained
Running back Derrick Henry’s streak of consecutive 100-yard rushing games ended at three. The NFL’s rushing leader ran for 60 yards on 15 carries.
He also fumbled for the first time this season. With 3:15 left in the first quarter and inside the Titans 20, Henry fumbled on the first play of the drive. Cleveland recovered, and Mayfield subsequently threw his second touchdown of the game to offensive lineman and spell tight end Kendall Lamm.
It was difficult to get Henry going with the offense rarely on the field. Aside from its first touchdown drive, when quarterback Ryan Tannehill found wide receiver Corey Davis for a score, the Titans had no more than six plays on any given drive.
With the Titans severely behind in the second half, Henry's carries vanished in lieu of the hurry-up offense and predominant pass calling.
Titans receivers struggle to catch the football
A.J. Brown fumbled twice. Adam Humphries bobbled a pass that turned into an interception by cornerback M.J. Stewart Jr.
Although Brown’s second fumble turned into a Cameron Batson touchdown run, Brown and the receiving corps did not have a game like they did against the Colts last week. Davis led all receivers with 10 catches for 168 yards and one touchdown.
No Jadeveon Clowney for the Titans shows
Pro Bowl pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney hadn’t caught his stride with the Titans, but his presence was felt when he played.
Clowney reportedly underwent season-ending knee surgery on Wednesday to repair his left meniscus. His one-year contract will be up, which means the guarantee for a 2021 return is off the table.
Meanwhile, the Titans defensive line hardly touched Mayfield. The Browns quarterback was 25-for-33 for 334 yards and the four scores.
Troubles on third down
The Browns converted 10 of their 16 third-down attempts with the Titans were just 2-of-10.
The Titans defense didn’t just allow conversions but also gave up big plays in the process against the 24th-best third-down conversion team in the league.
For Titans story ideas, contact Drake Hills at DHills@gannett.com. Follow Drake on Twitter at @LiveLifeDrake.