Titans stifle Browns in season opening win
CLEVELAND — Maybe Marcus Mariota and the Titans deserved all the hype.
Tennessee’s quarterback threw three touchdown passes, one a stunning 75-yarder to big back Derrick Henry, and the Titans rolled to a 43-13 rout Sunday over the Cleveland Browns, who fell flat on their faces in their highly anticipated opener.
Titans tight end Delanie Walker had two TD catches in the fourth, and Tennessee’s defensive backs intercepted Baker Mayfield three times in the fourth period.
Cameron Wake sacked Mayfield in the end zone for a safety in the first half, and the Titans dominated the undisciplined and perhaps overblown Browns, picked by some to contend for a Super Bowl title after adding Odell Beckham Jr.
The Browns committed 18 penalties for 182 yards, a poor reflection on first-year coach Freddie Kitchens. Cleveland also had a player ejected for kicking a Titans defender. The performance left Cleveland fans and wondering if they’ve been duped.
The Browns are 1-19-1 in openers since 1999.
The Titans always seem to be overlooked, but after just missing the playoffs last season, coach Mike Vrabel had his team ready.
Mariota finished 14 of 24 for 248 yards, completing his two scoring passes to Walker in a span of 3:29 of the final quarter when the Titans opened a 23-point lead.
Mayfield, who took several big hits while playing behind a patchwork line, brought Cleveland within 15-13 with a 3-yard TD pass to David Njoku. But the Titans countered immediately as Henry, who sat out the preseason with a calf injury, took a short pass, picked up a few blocks and rumbled down the sideline for the long score.
Kevin Byard picked off Mayfield moments later, and Mariota connected with Walker for an 11-yard score. The three-time Pro Bowler was making his return after suffering a season-ending broken leg in last year’s opener.
Mayfield was then picked for the second time and Tennessee’s Logan Ryan led the entire defense to the far end of the field, where they taunted Cleveland’s rabid Dawg Pound section.
Mayfield went 25 of 38 for 285 yards, with his last throw returned 38 yards for a TD by Malcolm Butler. Beckham finished with seven catches for 71 yards in his Cleveland debut.
The first half was a mess for the Browns, flagged 10 times, saw starting left tackle Greg Robinson get tossed, and had his backup, Kendall Lamm, go down with a knee injury on Wake’s sack.
Robinson was booted for booting safety Kenny Vaccaro in the head.
Tennessee’s Cairo Santos, signed earlier this week, made two field goals, from 53 and 37 yards. Santos was brought in after Ryan Succop was placed on injured reserve.
Browns: RB Dontrell Hilliard left with a concussion in the first half. … Lamm never returned after going down. … TE Demetrius Harris left briefly with a right shoulder injury.
Titans: host Indianapolis on Sunday. The Colts won both meetings last season by an average of 22 points.