Week 9 Game Recap: Tennessee Titans 14, Cleveland Browns 20
What you need to know
The Titans struggled to sustain significant drives in this game, and as a result, were only able to get on the board twice, and lost this road game to fall to 2-7. Steve McNair completed just 18 of 41 passes for one touchdown and a total of 235 yards, the majority of which came in the fourth quarter after the Titans had fallen behind. The Titans were playing without Drew Bennett and Tyrone Calico, but did have the services of Brandon Jones, Roydell Williams and Courtney Roby in their starting lineup. Unfortunately, Jones played sparingly and was not targeted all day. Williams led the team in targets with ten, and caught five passes for 61 yards. Roby saw seven passes come his way, but did not catch a pass until the final twenty seconds of the game, which he took for 29 yards. The primary beneficiary of McNair’s passes were his tight ends, even with Ben Troupe out. Both Erron Kinney and Bo Scaife caught five passes against the Browns defense. Kinney gained 74 yards and scored a touchdown with his five catches, while Scaife added 59 yards. Chris Brown was frequently targeted, but caught just one pass for eight yards.
The Titans remained dedicated to Chris Brown and the running game all day long, however Brown was unable to break the long one to change the momentum of the game. Brown finished with 95 yards on 22 carries, his most notable carry being a fifteen yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to close the score at 20-14. Travis Henry was active, but did not appear in this game at all. Jarrett Payton added one carry for a single yard.
Both Trent Dilfer and Reuben Droughns faced critical points in their 2005 seasons with the Cleveland Browns, and both responded with solid performances to reestablish their roles on the team and provide the leadership this team needed. Facing a potential quarterback controversy, Dilfer completed 18 of 34 passes for 272 yards and one touchdown. The touchdown pass went to Dennis Northcutt, who pulled an underthrown deep pass out of the air and broke through the tackle attempt of the cornerback for a 58 yard touchdown reception. Northcutt finished with 80 yards on three catches. Antonio Bryant finished with similar numbers while leading the team in targets again, ending the day with three catches for 79 yards. Braylon Edwards had a quiet day, catching just one pass for two yards. The key play of the day for the Browns came in the second half, when they converted a third down screen play for 51 yards to Reuben Droughns. Droughns finished with 73 yards on four catches through the air, while rookie running back Jason Wright added three catches for fifteen yards. Steve Heiden added two receptions for 15 yards.
By the end of game, the Browns fans were chanting, “Reuben! Reuben!” in response to the running backs strong performance of 116 rushing yards on twenty carries, and a combined 189 yards through the ground and air. Droughns was apologetic before his team earlier in the week after being arrested for a DUI, but responded on the field in this game. Droughns did exit the game with reported leg cramps, and was spelled throughout the game by rookie running back Jason Wright out of Northwestern. Wright carried the ball eight times for nineteen yards, and added the Browns’ first rushing touchdown in nearly a year.
What you ought to know
|QB Steve McNair, Pass: 18 - 41 - 235 - 1 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 1 - 2 - 0|
McNair struggled to find his receivers in this game, and completed just 44% of his passes, while averaging just 5.7 yards per passing attempt for a 60.5 passer rating. He was credited with an interception on the final play of the game, which was picked off at the Cleveland two on a Hail Mary. The biggest criticism of his day may have come on the previous drive when he took a sack on fourth down and did not even give his teammates a chance to make a play.
|RB Chris Brown, Rush: 22 - 95 - 1, Rec: 1 - 8 - 0 (4 targets)|
Brown had a solid day, but until his fifteen yard scamper for a touchdown late in the game, he was unable to come up with the big play to give his team the lift it needed. Too often in this game, he was caught behind the line of scrimmage for negative yardage, but this was due more in part to the penetration of the Browns’ defensive surge. Brown had a couple passes go off his fingertips on catchable balls, though he did not blatantly drop any passes.
Williams was the only Titans wide receiver to make any type of impact on this game, but only caught half of the passes thrown his way as Steve McNair was erratic all afternoon, in part due to the high winds.
Roby was actively targeted in this game, but did not catch a pass until the final twenty seconds of this game. Roby did not appear to be in rhythm with Steve McNair as he had the week before, as McNair consistently was overthrowing him or throwing the ball behind him. Two of the targets had pass interference calls, one on offense and one on defense.
With the absence of so many of Steve McNair’s favorite targets, Kinney was looked to quite often within critical situations in this game, and came up with the only Titans receiving touchdown on the day.
Scaife made the most of his opportunities with Ben Troupe out, and caught five of the eight passes thrown his way. Steve McNair targeted Scaife quite a bit early in the game, and Scaife showed good hands in catching every passable ball thrown his way.
Bironas missed his only field goal attempt of the day, pushing the ball wide right from 50 yards out.
The Titans were unable to slow down the Browns’ rushing game throughout most of the day, giving up 169 yards on the ground and over five yards per attempt. The young team showed poor fundamentals in the tackling department.
The only Titans’ interception on the afternoon came on a late heave at the end of the first half, and gave up 272 yards through the air.
|QB Trent Dilfer, Pass: 18 - 34 - 272 - 1 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 2 - 3 - 0|
Dilfer shrugged off a quarterback controversy, completing 53% of his passes for an average of eight yards per passing attempt and a 77.1 passer rating en route to the Browns’ third win of the season. Dilfer did lose one fumble, and was charged with an interception on a pass to end the first half, but did a good job of protecting the football and making a couple of key plays throughout the game.
Droughns combined for 189 yards on the ground and through the air, and made big plays when the team needed him to do so. He suffered an embarrassing DUI this week, and responded with a strong performance, highlighted by his 51 yard reception on a key third down of the go ahead drive for the Browns. Droughns left the game with approximately six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter with leg cramps.
|RB Jason Wright, Rush: 8 - 19 - 1, Rec: 3 - 15 - 0 (3 targets)|
Wright, a 5’10”, 210 pound rookie running back from Northwestern began the season in the Atlanta Falcons training camp, but was cut and signed by the Browns practice squad. With lingering injuries to Lee Suggs and William Green, the Browns added Wright to their 53 man roster this week, and he saw significant action in this game to spell a cramping Reuben Droughns. Prior to the game, head coach Romeo Crennel described Wright as "not very tall, but he has excellent quickness and able to change directions pretty quickly as he goes through the hole. His smarts and his quickness - those are the two things that are most noticeable about him. He can also catch the ball coming out of the backfield." Wight combined for 34 yards and a touchdown to turn the heads of the coaches in this game.
Northcutt’s big play came on his 58 yard touchdown where he was able to slow down on an underthrown deep ball, come down with the ball and break free from the grasp of the cornerback. He also added 31 yards on an end around, and combined with his punt return yardage, had 117 yards on the day on eight touches.
Bryant provided an explosive target when he broke one free for 49 yards, though he finished with just two more catches for thirty yards on the day. He continues to be Dilfer’s favorite target, though he was unable to put up a big day in the gusty wind conditions against the Titans.
Edwards was sporadically targeted in this game, and was not always the first or second intended target on the design of plays thrown his way. As a result, he caught just one ball.
Heiden continues to be used in the passing game more so than fellow tight end Aaron Shea, though less prominently in this game than in previous weeks. Heiden shows good hands, and is used primarily on passing plays.
Dawson connected on field goals of 19 and 37 yards, and late in the game, with a 20-14 lead, put a 29 yard attempt through the uprights. However, holding was called on this play, and Dawson was forced to attempt a 39 yarder, which sailed wide right.
The Browns kept the Titans under 100 yards, and didn’t allow Chris Brown to break a long one. The defensive line was able to provide significant penetration, and caught Brown behind the line on numerous occasions.
The Browns’ secondary was able to shut down the Titans’ passing game for most of the day until Steve McNair was able to complete a number of passes in the fourth quarter. The Browns were able to put pressure on McNair throughout the day, though they just came up with one sack, and their only interception came on the final play of the game, a hail mary.