The Titans soundly defeated the Cleveland Browns, clinching their first division title since 2002, and securing at least a first round bye in the playoffs. The Titans win coupled with the Eagles defeat of the New York Giants, once again gives Tennessee the best record in the NFL: a Pittsburgh loss to Dallas would have guaranteed the Titans homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. With most of Tennessee’s regular season goals in hand, it would seem that the Titans could be complacent against a team like the Browns, but such wasn’t the case on Sunday.
- For the second straight week, Tennessee was able to establish their running game early and often. “Twitch” Johnson and LenDale White combined to run the ball for 235 yards, and two scores. One more yard for White (he had 99 yards on the ground) would have marked the third time this season that each player in the tandem would have eclipsed the 100 yard mark. As it stands, Twitch leads all rookie running backs with 1094 rushing yards (good for 5th overall in the league), and LenDale is tied for first in rushing touchdowns (14).
- The Titans certainly didn’t play an error free game on Sunday, but against Cleveland it didn’t really matter. The only blemish on LenDale White’s line for the day was his first fumble lost on the season. Kerry Collins also had a few notable mistakes in what was otherwise another perfectly efficient outing. Collins threw two interceptions (a season high) to go with his two scores through the air. Tennessee’s D also seemed to make a few more mistakes than usual, being penalized 7 times for 74 yards. All in all, Cleveland got 178 yards of total offense on their own, while Tennessee gave them another 131 yards in penalties. The Titans obviously played more than well enough to make up for their surprising lapses in discipline.
- Cleveland averaged 2.8 yards per play from scrimmage (3.3 yards per passing attempt, 1.8 yards per rushing attempt). If you were to tell Romeo Crennel that his “rusty” quarterback, the one and only Ken Dorsey, was only going to get sacked once, with just one pick, he’d probably thought his team was going to be in the ballgame. They weren’t, and Ken Dorsey was very inefficient, even with a surprising amount of protection. The Browns even installed their own version of the wildcat offense, putting return man Josh Cribbs in at quarterback for a few series. It worked relatively well the first two plays. Then it didn’t, for the rest of the game.
- An early 4th quarter field goal brought the Browns within 12 points with 13:30 to play, a very unlikely margin to overcome, seeing how the game had played out up to that point, but possible nonetheless. The Browns, though, seemed to have no real sense of urgency, and punted on a 4th and 1with a little over eight minutes to play (still down 12). While the ball was at their own 24, sustaining that drive was more than likely their only chance to win. The result? Chris Carr returns a 45 yard punt 44 yards. Net gain, 1 yard. Tennessee starts their drive at Cleveland’s 25, and “Twitch” runs it in for a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage. Maybe Crennel was thinking about how much more his house was worth when he bought it than it’s gonna sell for, or maybe he was just playing the spread (14 points) and not for the win. Either way, Cleveland lost both ways.
Not to beat up on the Browns, or Romeo, too much but Crennel seams to be a dead man walking, and a lot of his players looked like they were taking plays off (I’m looking at you Braylon Edwards). The Titans will take a trip to Houston next week, to face the surprisingly dangerous (at times) Texans, while Romeo and co. travel to Philadelphia to face the Eagles. It would be pretty awkward if Marty Schottenheimer is in his parking spot when they get back.