Well, that was entirely too close. The Titans escaped this one, but it wasn’t convincing at all. Here’s how it happened.
In a sleepy first half of football, the Titans and Browns traded field goals. Neither offense really got anything established as each run defense stood tall. Coming into the game, the Titans had a clear advantage in the passing game with Jason McCourty out for Cleveland. Tennessee chose to attack on the ground though, to limited first half success.
The Titans were able to get close twice, but couldn’t close the deal. Ryan Succop added two field goals to give the Titans a 6-3 lead, which held through halftime.
Kevin Byard got the Titans off and rolling in the second half with a pick, setting the Titans up in prime position to take command of this one. Mariota his Rishard Matthews down to the one yard line.
After four tries from the one, the Titans handed the football back on downs to the Browns with no points. They tried Murray twice, Henry once. Mariota even missed a wide open Delanie Walker. It was just a horrible sequence for the Titans. Inexcusable.
The Browns inserted Cody Kessler into the game in relief of DeShone Kizer. Cleveland responded with a drive resulting in three points, evening the game up at 6-6.
Heading into the fourth quarter, the Titans would get that field goal right back. Mariota took a deep shot on third down to Delanie Walker in the endzone, but had it batted away. Tennessee led 9-6 after an underwhelming three quarters of play.
Kessler got the ball back and had the Browns on the move once again. However, Hue Jackson decided to go for 4th and 3 with a deep shot, which Kessler missed. That was a big break for Tennessee. Cleveland could have tied the game at 9-9 with a field goal.
Mariota got the ball back and was able to convert a big time 3rd and 14. After several runs, Marcus couldn’t convert on 3rd and short, forcing another field goal attempt. This time, Succop missed it.
Cleveland took over with eight minutes to play. Kessler didn’t get too far before Kessler went deep and was picked off by Kevin Byard, who snagged his third pick of the day. However, the offense went three and out quickly, handing the ball right back.
Derrick Morgan came up big with a sack that put the Browns behind the eight ball, but Kessler was able to hit Duke Johnson Jr. to convert. Just like that, the Browns were threatening. The Titans were able to get the stop they had to have, but Cleveland was already in field goal range. They drilled it, tying things up at 9.
Marcus Mariota got the ball back with 47 seconds left and three timeouts — but wasn’t able to do anything. The Titans punted and the Browns took a knee. Overtime, here we came.
The Browns got the ball first, but produced a similar result. The Titans’ pass rush got after Kessler and forced a quick punt. The Titans got the ball back, and did the same. They also lost Delanie Walker to a leg injury on the drive. Kern put this one through the endzone, giving the Browns the ball and a chance to win with a field goal.
Thankfully for the Titans, the pass rush woke up. Joe Thomas left this one early and the Titans took advantage. They came up with a big sack on 3rd and 9, forcing another punt.
Mariota took over at midfield with 5:57 to play. All you needed at that point was about 20 yards for a realistic field goal chance. After two runs, Mariota was faced with a 3rd and 3. He got it to Matthews, who converted and put the team in field goal range.
Tennessee ran three times, bleeding the clock and getting to the Cleveland 30. They ran out Ryan Succop for a shot at the game winner. It was a 47 yard attempt.
After the Browns iced him, Succop drilled it to win. The Titans escaped with this one 12-9, in an underwhelming performance.
There’s a lot to unpack here, but at least we know this. The Titans are 4-3 heading into the bye week. Everything isn’t rosy, but there’s certainly time to fix it.