Benefitting from excellent field position generated by their defense’s turnover, the Tennessee Titans faced an unusual predicament – they moved the ball in the wrong direction. Astonishingly, this regressive movement accounted for their sole points in a disheartening 27-3 defeat against the Cleveland Browns.
Derrick Henry, the prolific running back, was severely limited to just 20 rushing yards, while quarterback Ryan Tannehill endured five sacks and numerous additional pressures. The Titans’ offensive output dwindled to a mere 94 yards, marking their lowest performance since relocating from Houston to Tennessee in 1997. In fact, this dismal display stood as the franchise’s most abysmal offensive showing in 49 years, tracing back to November 24, 1974, when the Oilers suffered a loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
Titans head coach Mike Vrabel candidly admitted, “They were much, much better than we were, coaching, playing, the whole bit.”
The Titans found themselves unable to contain the Browns’ All-Pro defensive end, Myles Garrett, who accumulated 3.5 sacks and was tantalizingly close to securing even more. Overwhelmed and outmatched, the Titans (1-2) struggled in all facets of the game.
Derrick Henry, a two-time rushing champion, has accumulated only 163 yards on 51 carries this season, averaging a mere 3.2 yards per attempt across three games. Notably, both of the Titans’ losses this season have been characterized by subpar offensive performances. In Week 1, Tannehill threw three interceptions against the New Orleans Saints, and against the Browns, he failed to orchestrate any significant passing plays, completing 13 of 25 attempts for a paltry 104 yards.
This defeat was particularly vexing for Tannehill, who had led the Titans to victory the previous week against the Los Angeles Chargers. Moreover, the veteran quarterback finds himself in the final season of a lucrative four-year, $118 million contract and expressed his frustration, saying, “It’s frustrating, obviously. Haven’t been a part of a whole lot of games here that ended like that. Not the way we wanted to go out and play on any side of the ball. We gotta be better.”
A perplexing sequence in the first quarter epitomized the Titans’ vexing day. After Titans cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting stripped Elijah Moore and recovered a fumble at the Browns’ 17-yard line, the Titans became the first team this season to venture into the red zone against the Cleveland defense. However, their expedition was forgettable, marked by a series of setbacks. Myles Garrett made a crucial tackle on first down, capturing Henry for a 3-yard loss. On the subsequent play, Garrett repeated his dominance, this time swatting the ball away from Tannehill as he attempted a throw. Henry salvaged the situation by recovering the fumble on the final play of the first quarter. Yet, when the Titans attempted to advance, Tannehill’s short pass to tight end Chig Okonkwo on third down resulted in a 2-yard loss, courtesy of Browns cornerback Denzel Ward. Three plays, a net loss of 9 yards, culminating in a lone Tennessee score via a 44-yard field goal by Nick Folk.
In the waning moments of the first half, the Titans once again squandered a scoring opportunity after advancing to Cleveland’s 11-yard line with only 22 seconds remaining. Despite two passing plays yielding no progress, Garrett burst through the offensive line on third down, sacking Tannehill. Devoid of timeouts, the Titans failed to orchestrate their field-goal unit, and the final seconds expired, leaving them helpless.
Tannehill lamented, “We were in a situation where the ball had to be in the end zone or out of bounds. It wasn’t the play that we had called, but he got there pretty fast and he made the play.”