By Ron Wynn
It was the Tennessee Titans rather than the heavily hyped Cleveland Browns who had an offensive explosion Sunday, with Tennessee scoring an impressive 43-13 opening road win. They blew the game open by scoring 28 consecutive points, including 21 in the fourth quarter. It was the biggest Titans victory since 1991, one where they were vastly superior in every area to a Browns team many observers pegged as an early Super Bowl contender. It was also the first three-touchdown pass game of Marcus Mariota’s five-year career. He completed 14 of 24 passes for 248 yards, with no interceptions. He did get sacked four times, but otherwise things went very smoothly, particularly in the second half.
Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield had one hot stretch, completing 11 straight passes. He ended with 25 completions in 38 attempts for 285 yards and one touchdown, but also endured a disastrous fourth quarter with three interceptions. The third was returned 38 yards by Malcolm Butler for the game’s final touchdown. In addition to three interceptions, Mayfield was sacked five times, and under heavy pressure throughout the second half. Odell Beckham had seven receptions for 71 yards, but only one in the second half.
Derrick Henry started slow, but exploded for a third quarter 75-yard touchdown reception, part of the stretch where the Titans took control. He also had a one-yard touchdown run in the second quarter and 84 yards rushing on 19 carries. Dynamic rookie A.J. Brown enjoyed a big first game, with three receptions for 100 yards. Delanie Walker added two touchdown receptions, showing he’s completely recovered from last year’s ankle injury. New addition Cameron Wake contributed two sacks and a safety, while Kevin Byard and Logan Ryan each had an interception.
As a final plus, the Titans got excellent performances in the kicking game. Cairo Santos, signed for the first half with Ryan Succop on injured reserve, had two field goals including a 53 yarder. Brett Kern averaged nearly 47 yards (46.2) per punt. The Browns greatly aided the Titans cause with extremely undisciplined play. They had 18 penalties for over 180 yards (182), many coming at critical times. Many of the same observers who’ve touted the Browns as Super Bowl contenders also predicted the Titans would be in the AFC South cellar.
But after the opening week, the Colts, whom the Titans face Sunday, come to Nissan Stadium minus longtime standout QB Andrew Luck. Jacksonville, whom they play September 19 in a Thursday night game, lost their starting QB Nick Foles to injury in Sunday’s first half against Kansas City. The Titans have a good chance to jump out front early in the division. If they can consistently put together the offensive and defensive performances they displayed Sunday they will definitely surprise a lot of folks around the NFL.