Titans’ comeback effort too little, too late

After a rough first half, Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans just didn’t have enough to come back against the Cleveland Browns, falling 28-14.

After a rough first half, Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans just didn’t have enough to come back against the Cleveland Browns, falling 28-14.

The Titans looked like an entirely different team than the one fans saw in Tampa Bay last week. This time, Mariota wasn’t close to having a perfect passer rating, the ground game never got going and Kendall Wright was not a factor at all. The first quarter was reminiscent of last year, which featured a team that went 2-14, tying the Buccaneers for the worst record in the league.

The offense went three-and-out on their first drive and then allowed a 60-yard bomb to Travis Benjamin on defense. The next possession, former Brown Terrance West fumbled the ball and gave Cleveland a short field, allowing them to go up 14-0.

The Browns did a great job of pressuring Mariota on every play and the Titans’ offensive line failed to give him time to make any good decisions. Dexter McCluster had a 44-yard rush on the following drive to gain some momentum, but that quickly evaporated when Mariota was sacked and fumbled the ball away on the following third down, surrendering possession to the Browns for the second time in the opening quarter.

The offense looked confused. They burned two timeouts quite early in the game and received two delay of game penalties. The first half was ended on a Travis Benjamin punt return touchdown, his second score of the day.

McCluster remained the only bright spot in the game for Tennessee. He led the Titans in receiving and rushing in the first half with 95 total yards and would go on to carry most of the workload in the second half.

Photo by Erik Drost, courtesy of creativecommons.org. No changes made.
Photo by Erik Drost, courtesy of creativecommons.org. No changes made.

The Titans’ defense made some adjustments at the break and was able to slow down Johnny Manziel’s offense. Tennessee finally got on the board when Mariota hooked up with tight end Anthony Fasano for a 19-yard touchdown pass, capping off the first successful possession for the Titans’ offense.

The defense was able to hold the Browns scoreless in the third quarter, and the Titans again later found themselves in the red zone. Mariota connected with Dorial Green-Beckham for his first NFL reception, a 13-yard touchdown on fourth and six to cut the Browns’ lead to seven with under seven minutes to go in the game. This touchdown was Mariota’s sixth of his career, which tied Dan Marino for the most touchdowns in a quarterback’s first two starts.

The Titans looked like they were going to get another chance with the ball with the Browns facing a third and six, but Tennessee’s secondary was once again exposed as Benjamin reeled in his third total touchdown, a 50-yard bomb from Manziel.

Tennessee was able to drive down the field with under a minute left, but their chances of a comeback were ended by a Browns’ sack and Mariota fumble, recovered by Cleveland.

Mariota was sacked seven times in the Titans’ loss and Tennessee also had nine penalties totaling 85 yards. Those are pretty tough numbers to overcome if a team is hoping for a victory.

Manziel went 8-for-15 through the air for 172 yards and two touchdowns, both to Benjamin, who had three receptions for 115 yards.

Mariota finished 21-for-37 for 257 yards and two touchdowns in a tough game which saw him usually scrambling for his life from the Browns swarming pass rush. McCluster led the rushing attack with 98 yards on 10 carries and Fasano had five receptions for 84 yards and a touchdown.

The Titans will try to regroup as they head home to Nashville next week to take on the divisional rival Indianapolis Colts.

Edited by Cody McClure