Sunday, October 16th, the Tennessee Titans beat the Cleveland Browns 28-26 at Nissan Stadium.
Let’s evaluate four positives and two negatives from the game.
Kendall Wright shines
Due to a hamstring injury, Titans’ receiver Kendall Wright missed the first three games of the 2016 season.
Although he returned to the field in Week 4 versus the Houston Texans and in Week 5 versus the Miami Dolphins, Wright’s performance was limited. During those games he caught three passes on four targets for a measly 23 yards.
After Sunday it seems that Wright is back to full form. He had the second best receiving performance of his career, as he caught eight passes on nine targets for 133 yards, six first downs, and a touchdown.
Wright’s best reception came in the first quarter when the Titans lead 7-6. On a play-action fake, Wright dove to catch a deep pass, hit the ground, and got back up in time to crawl into the end zone for a 48-yard touchdown.
“I told [Wright] out there on the field that I’m glad to have you back,” Titans’ tight end Delanie Walker said. “I’m glad he’s 100 percent. His performance showed it. He balled out today.”
Titans’ defense continues to bring pressure
During last Thursday’s practice, defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau acknowledged “our main goal is to keep consistent pressure on the quarterback … The big thing is you can’t let that quarterback get real comfortable, or at this level, [the opposing team is] going to hit you.”
Browns’ rookie quarterback Cody Kessler was not comfortable on Sunday, because for a second in a row, the Titans’ defense recorded six sacks and over eight quarterback hits.
Brian Orakpo had his seventh sack of the season, which ranks third most in the league. Jurrell Casey had his third sack in the past two games. And linebackers Derrick Morgan Avery Williamson, Sean Spence and Wesley Woodyard accounted fort the remaining knockdowns on Kessler.
Marcus Mariota develops chemistry with receivers
Through the first four games of the season, Titans’ quarterback Marcus Mariota threw two touchdowns on five interceptions and was averaging a quarterback rating below 50. Understandably, concerns about the chemistry between Mariota and his receivers arose.
For the time being these concerns have been quelled, because through the past two weeks, Mariota has thrown six touchdowns on one interception and is averaging a quarterback rating above 90.
Versus the Browns, the second year quarterback completed 17-of-24 passes (71 percent) for 284 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. The performance was particularly valuable since DeMarco Murray and Derrek Henry struggled to find success against the Browns’ defense. The running backs averaged 3.13 yards per carry.
Titans overcome history
Before Sunday, the Titans had not won consecutive games since the closing weeks of the 2013 season. They also had not beaten a non-Jacksonville team at home since 2013.
These ‘blotches’ in recent-history are now erased. With a win over the Browns, the Titans have consecutive wins this season; they have their first home win of 2016; and above all they are second in the AFC South, one game behind the Division-leading Texans (4-2).
Tyrell Pryor torches Titans’ secondary
Through the first five weeks of the season, the Titans have done well to limit the biggest offensive threats on opposing teams: Vikings’ Adrian Peterson in Week 1, Lions’ Golden Tate in Week 2, Raiders’ Amari Cooper in Week 3, Texans’ DeAndre Hopkins in Week 4, and Dolphins’ Jarvis Landry in Week 5.
This defensive streak ended versus the Browns, as wide receiver Tyrell Pryor caught nine passes on 13 targets for 75 yards, three first downs, and two touchdowns.
Pryor’s most impressive reception came at the end of the first half when the Browns trailed 6-14. He leaped over cornerback Valentino Blake and safety Rashad Johnson to catch a 7-yard pass in the back of the end zone.
Titans give up points late
The Titans gave their crowd a scare as they nearly gave up a 15-point lead with less than seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
Cleveland drove 75-yards in 13 plays (missed two-point conversion) to narrow the lead to nine points. They then recovered an onside kick and drove 62-yards in nine plays (converted PAT) to narrow the lead to two points. If the Browns’ subsequent onside kick had not travelled out of bounds, they may have recovered the football and completed their comeback.
This late-game defensive performance is surely something the Titans want to shore up before they face Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts next week. Kickoff happens in Nissan Stadium at 12:00 PM CST.