It was a tough week to watch football if you are a fan in northeast Ohio.
First, you had to watch Ohio State play really a game that would make you become a soccer fan after looking at their offense during Saturday’s 10-7 loss to Michigan State.
Today, the Browns dropped to 2-2 with a 31-13 loss to Tennessee that wasn’t the mismatch the score would indicate.
There should be one more category added to the NFL stat sheet for this game, and it would show a huge edge for the Titans, and that would be big plays. It would say: Titans 3, Browns 0.
Cleveland had more first downs, 25 to 13, they outgained Tennessee 416 yards to 332. The time of possession statistic was overwhelmingly in the Browns favor, 37 minutes to just 23 for the Titans.
None of that matters because every big play was made by the opponents from the AFC South, and the home team couldn’t answer with one of their own.
For a change, Cleveland didn’t need a wake up call on offense, getting a Phil Dawson field goal in the first quarter, and they got a second one after a Titan TD to make it a 7-6 game in favor of the visitors.
Then came the first big play.
Matt Hasselbeck converted the next play into an 80-yard touchdown pass and run to TE Jared Cook to stretch the Tennessee advantage to 14-6. S Usama Young had a chance to knock Cook out-of-bounds at around the Browns’ 40, but went low instead of high and missed, allowing Tennessee to take an eight point lead with just one play.
The visitors made their second big play right before halftime, when Hasselbeck hit WR Nate Washington on a pick play for 57 yards to the CLE 4. A TD throw to Damian Williams on the next play gave Tennessee a 21-6 halftime advantage instead of an eight point lead.
The Browns couldn’t allow another touchdown in the second half if they hoped to win this one, and after an exchange of punts, the Titans were held to a 39 yard field goal by Rod Bironas to make it 24-6 with almost seven minutes left in the 3rd quarter. Still time enough to mount a comeback win.
Cleveland started driving and an 18 yard throw to TE Ben Watson put the ball on the TEN 29 yard line. But big play #3 came up next.
Flushed out of the pocket, QB Colt McCoy threw his only interception of the day. What was worse was that Jordan Babineaux returned the pick 97 yards for a touchdown and that was all she wrote.
McCoy would up hitting 40 of his 61 passes for 350 yards and a meaningless TD throw to Watson. The completions were a team record.
Early on, the offense showed a decent mix of the run and pass, but penalties and mistakes halted drives. Still, looking at the positives, the attack moved the ball effectively.
After getting down 18 and then 25 points, the run had to be abandoned, accounting for all of the passing.
Defensively, for the first time this season, they couldn’t get a lot of pressure on the quarterback. Plus, the brown and orange got burned on a couple of run blitzes, which resulted in the two big plays.
The Titans gained 332 yards, but 137 of them came on just two plays. Chris Johnson ran for 101 yards, but 25 came on one run, so the Browns did a decent job of containing him.
After the game, there was total panic and despair among Browns fans. Why? Most intelligent football people thought the team would finish at 7-9 or 8-8 at best. They now sit at .500, the same record as the Steelers, and a game better than everyone’s favorite before the campaign started, the Eagles.
The problem is that fans get carried away looking at the schedule. Right now, the Tennessee Titans are 3-1 and a pretty good football team.
With the bye week coming up for Cleveland, here’s hoping the Browns can heal up some bumps and bruises, and also evaluate the strengths of the offense. They need to run the football first, and then use the more sophisticated west coast passing attack in tandem with the ground game.
The Browns are getting there, just not as fast as their fans would like.