An overtime win against a winless team probably should carry an asterisk beside it in the W column.
But the Tennessee Titans will take Sunday’s 12-9 victory over the Cleveland Browns that sent them into the bye week with a 4-3 record and a share of first place in the AFC South.
Despite their struggles, the Titans had the same message coming out of the locker room after the game – they will taken the ugly win and not be ashamed of how it happened.
“A win is a win. When you can come into another opponent’s house and get the W, it doesn’t matter who the opponent is, that’s a good thing,” receiver Rishard Matthews said.
Kicker Ryan Succop, whose 47-yard field goal in overtime provided the Titans with the win, made four of five field goal tries Sunday and in the process provided all of Tennessee’s offense.
“It was a good win on the road – a very good win on the road. It was not pretty, but I like the way our guys, especially defensively, kept fighting all the way until the end,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. “That’s the one thing about this team – I’ll say ‘resilient’ is a pretty good description of them. I knew it was going to be that kind of game. Obviously we have a lot of work to do, especially in the red zone.”
The offense was lethargic throughout the day, leaving at least 10 points on the field, with a first-and-goal situation at the 1 that ended with Titans running backs being stuffed three times short of the goal line and a second-and-goal pass from Marcus Mariota that short-hopped a wide-open Delanie Walker in the end zone.
“A couple of the things were negative plays and missed opportunities. I have to make the throw to Delanie on a corner route. It is things like that and obviously those things are going to happen,” Mariota said. “The defense did a great job keeping us in the game and ultimately winning us the game. We’ll go back to the drawing board, get better at those things and we’ll find ways to score points.”
Mularkey said the Titans’ decision to go for it one that he would do every time.
“If we have four downs on the one, we’re going to go for it. With our offense, our backs, our tight ends, our full back – that’s disappointing,” Mularkey said. “With the opportunities in the red zone, we’ve got to do a better job. We’ve got to clean it up. We have to figure out what we’re doing wrong. It starts with the coaching and the scheme, and then we look at the players doing it. We’ll look at all of it, just like we do in the offseason. We’ll look at all of it in this bye week.”
As bad as the Titans offense was, the defense did step up and help save the day for Tennessee. Second-year safety Kevin Byard had three interceptions – the first Titan to do so since Keith Bulluck picked off three passes in a Monday night win in New Orleans in 2007. Byard picked off rookie quarterback Deshone Kizer twice in the first half, and intercepted Cody Kessler, who replaced Kizer in the second half, as well.
For the Titans, the run game, which has been the key to the team’s success in its other victories, failed to generate much of a charge against the Browns defense. DeMarco Murray, who was questionable during the week with a hamstring injury, gained 59 yards on 18 carries, while Derrick Henry, who was the hero last Monday night with 131 yards rushing vs. the Colts, was held to 13 yards on 13 attempts.
Mariota, still lacking some of his mobility due to a strained hamstring, ran just once (plus a loss on a botched play), and never really found a rhythm with his receivers either.
Mariota completed 21 of 34 passes for 203 yards, but did not have a touchdown pass. The good news for Mariota was that he also did not have an interception.
Tennessee looked to be in good position, scoring on a Succop field goal on the first drive of the game. But the fact that the drive stalled at the Cleveland 25, leading to Succop’s 43-yard kick was a sign of things to come for the Tennessee offense.
The Titans never trailed in the game, but each time they kicked a field goal, the Browns would eventually answer with a kick of their own from Zane Gonzalez. Gonzalez sent the game into overtime with a wobbly 54-yard kick that drew back to the right and through the uprights with less than a minute left.
The Titans now head into their bye week with plenty of things to examine, especially with an inconsistent offense that yet again played sluggishly on Sunday against the Browns, who entered Sunday 0-6.