Browns at Titans Recap

File this one under record setting games you would love to have back. Yes, once again the Titans set a record on their way to another loss before the home crowd at LP Field. This time the Titans blew one of the largest leads in franchise history at 28-3 on their way to a loss to the Cleveland Browns 29-28 at LP Field.

You have to go back to the Houston Oilers days to find a similar loss when they blew a 35-3 lead to the Buffalo Bills in the playoffs on Jan. 3, 1993.

If this one doesn’t sting the Titans for a long time then nothing will. There is little evidence the Titans have any pride anymore given how poorly they have played this year. The Titans played very well the first half and then decided to take the rest of the game off. Perhaps they departed too when Derrick Morgan got ejected?

I’m still waiting on the NFL to explain that one.

The entire game featured cheap shot after cheap shot by Browns players on Titans players but there was only one ejection in the game and that was Titans linebacker Derrick Morgan. The NFL has been remarkably silent on what led to Morgan’s ejection but it seems to fly in the face of their “safety initiative” to ignore the cheap shots but to eject a player who appeared to be defending another player.

Or perhaps he said a dirty word? He wouldn’t be alone as the officiating was particularly horrid.

The Titans have now lost four in a row and this loss perhaps hurts the most. The Titans played well for the most part but costly penalties negated two turnovers and a costly mistake on special teams led to a blocked punt and a safety. The Titans finished with seven penalties for 74 yards.

Jake Locker took a number of cheap shots from the Browns and exited the game with a hand injury. Locker previously injured his right wrist and sat out the Indianapolis Colts game. Before he left the game, Locker was playing very well and finished 8 of 11 for 79 yards and a touchdown. He added four rushes for 34 yards and a touchdown.

It’s a fundamental rule in football that if you want to sit on a lead you run the ball. Apparently the Titans coaching staff missed that class or maybe they didn’t get the memo. Regardless, the Titans unwillingness to run the ball is already a major concern.

The play calling has been suspect all season but it might have hit a new low when the Titans called a Charlie Whitehurst quarterback sneak on 4 and 1 at the Tennessee 42 yard line. He did not make it and head coach Ken Whisenhunt inexplicably challenged the spot and lost a valuable timeout in the process.

It was a decision that would haunt the Titans on their final drive of the game.

A desperation drive at the end showed promise but the Titans only had one timeout and for some reason didn’t realize they needed to call plays to get the ball out of bounds. The Titans also had protection issues throughout the game particularly on that last drive. Charlie Whitehurst was sacked for a six yard loss during the drive.

The Titans have a fullback in Jackie Battle but he only played nine snaps and none in pass protection. Leon Washington played 12 snaps on offense, did not get a carry, and was used in pass protection on six of them. Shonn Greene has been so poor at pass protection the Titans rarely call his number there anymore. He only played once in pass protection.

In fact, the Titans only gave added protection to their struggling offensive line on 14 plays Sunday. Leon Washington got the majority of the duty there with his six snaps. Green got the one, Sankey once, Chase Coffman three times, Delanie Walker once and and Taylor Lewan playing tight end twice.

The Titans defense was playing fairly well until the ejection of one of its best players in Morgan. This isn’t to say there weren’t issues particularly in run defense but the wheel really came off the wagon after his loss. The Browns were able to run the ball at will and Browns running Ben Tate ate them up for 123 rushing yards on 22 carries. The only good news is that the Titans defense did not give up a rushing touchdown.

The Titans struggling pass defense was briefly lifted by the solid play of Coty Sensabaugh who moved from the inside to the right outside cornerback spot due to a Blidi Wreh-Wilson concussion  but he left the game late with a knee injury. It does not sound serious but his status is up in the air for the Week 6 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Of more serious concern is Bernard Pollard’s Achilles injury which could be season ending. Pollard has been one of the bright spots on a lackluster defense.

Without Morgan to harass him, Brian Hoyer went 21 of 37 for 292 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He was sacked only once in the game by Michael Griffin on a safety blitz. The Titans were struggling to get pressure before Morgan was ejected and didn’t get much afterward.

You can only caution so long before your words of caution come true and that happened with special teams Sunday. The Titans special teams have been teetering on collapse and the first major breakdown of the year came on a Brett Kern blocked punt that went out of the end zone for a safety.

It’s never wise to point to one play alone as the reason for loss, or a win really, but that one comes pretty close.Not only did Cleveland get the extra two points but they scored on the ensuing possession. That’s a nine point differential right there.

These are trying times indeed in Nashville, Tennessee as the Titans search for answers to end their losing streak. Will they find them in time to salvage the season? It isn’t looking likely.

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