The players, for the most part, played hard for four quarters but the same can not be said about the coaching staff as the Cleveland Browns fell to 4-9 with a 28-9 drubbing at the hands of the 12-1 Tennessee Titans. The Titans outclassed the Browns is virtually every phase of the game as they methodically wore down the Browns defense to the tune of 390 total yards, 235 on the ground.
The Browns came into the game as the only team int he NFL not to score a touchdown on their opening drive in 2008. They looked as if they might actually break that string as Ken Dorsey drove them into Titans' territory. But a dropped pass, this time by Donte Stallworth, on third down made them settle for a Phil Dawson field goal and a 3-0 lead to start the contest.
An acrobatic interception by D'Qwell Jackson gave the Browns the ball back at the Titans' 25 and an opportunity to put Tennessee in an early hole. But the offense could only manage two yards on three plays and had to settle for a 6-0 lead courtesy of Dawson's leg.
Kerry Collins took the ensuing possession and led the Titans down the field on a nine play drive to answer. Mixing in both Chris Johnson and LenDale White the Titans faced a 3rd and 1 at the Browns' 28. Shaun Rogers and Andra Davis stuffed White for no gain but Titans' coach Jeff Fisher wanted nothing to do with field goals.
On 4th and 1, Fisher called for a play action pass to the left flat. Fullback Ahmad Hall caught the Collins toss and rumbled 28 yards for the go ahead touchdown. The Rod Bironas extra point made it 7-6 Tennessee and the Titans took control from there.
On their last drive of the half, the Titans once again went nine plays for a score. Running at will, and the beneficiary of a Corey Williams 15 yard roughing the passer foul, the Titans effortlessly drove into Browns' territory. LenDale White stuffed it into the endzone for a 14-6 Titan advantage with just over two minutes left in the half.
For Browns fans hoping for some late second quarter magic there would be none. The Browns had only scored nine points total in the last two minutes of the first half for the entire year. They did nothing to better that statistic and went into halftime trailing by eight. In fact, Chris Johnson had outgained the entire Browns team in yards 87-77 in the first half.
The Browns forced a Tennessee three and out to start the third quarter but Ken Dorsey was intercepted on the Browns subsequent possession. Collins responded by hitting Justin Gage in the endzone for a 21-6 lead midway through the third.
The Browns tried to fight back forcing White to fumble and intercepting Collins for a second time, again by D'Qwell Jackson. But the inept Browns offense could do nothing as the Titans defense smothered the run all day.
Jamal Lewis managed only seven yards on seven carries and Jerome Harrision gained two yards on two carries. In fact, as a team, the Browns only gained 35 yards on 19 attempts.
This put the onus to win the game on Dorsey which is not a position for him, or the Browns, to succeed. He gave it his all and played with a lot of guts as the Titans pressured him and hit him all day. But the longest completion he could manage was a 25 yard slant that was more the product of Braylon Edwards' legs than Dorsey's arm.
While the players seemed to play with heart and effort one has to ask if Romeo Crennel was doing the same. Down by 15 early in the fourth quarter he called for a third Phil Dawson field goal rather that go for in on 4th down. The points made the margin 12 which meant he still needed two touchdowns to win the game.
With that 12 point deficit later in the period, Crennel called for a punt on 4th and less than one from Browns' territory. The move did nothing to attempt to win the game and was gutless, quite frankly. Josh Cribbs finally threw out of the "Flash Package" and hit Braylon Edwards for 50 yards, but Edwards was ruled out of bounds.
Replays showed Edwards may have gotten his feet in bounds but Crennel chose not to challenge. Down 19 points at that juncture, what did the Browns have to lose by challenging? One timeout at the most if they did challenge. A lot of respect if they didn't. They didn't.
Crennel did however decide to call timeout on the Titans last drive of the game with the clock running on 4th and 1 from inside the Browns ten yard line. Once again, it accomplished nothing as the Titans were only attempting to run out the clock and not score.
The Browns did hold and prevent a late touchdown to keep the score more respectable, if you can call a 19 point loss that. But after three straight games without a touchdown and a head coach who still doesn't get it, the Browns organization isn't something that generates much respect in anyone's eyes.