All was right with the Tennessee Titans on Sunday as they routed the Cleveland Browns, 31-13, at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
Along the way, the Titans found out that Matt Hasselbeck's success had not been directly tied to Kenny Britt, as the veteran quarterback found three different receivers for touchdowns in the game. Hasselbeck hit Craig Stevens with a 12-yard touchdown to erase a quick 3-0 lead and put the Titans up for good at 7-3.
He found Jared Cook for an 80-yard TD score that put the Titans up 7-3, a lead they would never relinquish in the game, and then added a four-yard touchdown throw to Damian Williams to cap off a strong first half in which the Titans led 21-6.
“We thought he had a lot left in the tank watching him play us last year,” Coach Mike Munchak said of Hasselbeck, who finished just 10 of 20, but threw for 220 yard and the three touchdowns. “We (lost) in a good game in Seattle. We felt in our system, what we do as an offense with the offensive line, we felt we could take a guy like him and protect him - then he has a lot of good years left . We didn’t bring him here just to retire. Our plan was to bring him here and do exactly what he is doing.”
Exactly what Hasselbeck has been doing is perhaps having a career year at age 36. On Sunday, Hasselbeck said with a cold rain coming in off the late during the game, the Titans had to take their chances early with passing game, if they were going to have success with it.
“With the weather we didn’t know how much we were going to throw the ball,” Hasselbeck said. “Rain was coming in off the lake, and the weather was going to be tough. So we just talked about throwing while we could, and guys stepped up and made big plays against their man coverage.”
Speaking of making plays, the Titans defense continued the run that had put Tennessee atop the defensive rankings before this week.
The Tennessee defense continued to impress under Jerry Gray, holding the Browns out of the end zone until the second half, and even getting a 97-yard interception return from Jordan Babineaux for a touchdown in the second half as well.
“We had a lot of big plays and scored a touchdown. Right now everything is clicking,” defensive end Jason Jones said. “If we continue to prepare like we’ve been doing every week, we’ll have many more wins.”
In addition to Hasselbeck staying on track and the Tennessee defense dicatating the tempo, the Titans got a couple of other things out of the way as well. Chris Johnson finally topped the 100-yard rushing mark with 101 yards on 23 carries. It marked his first 100-yard game of the season and more than doubled the total he had put up in the first three games.
“Trying to get over the 100-yard mark for the first time this season, and trying to get the ball moving, keeping drives moving, helps,” Johnson said. “Creating more chances to get more touches on the ball always helps. When you can get live work on Sundays, when you are up and running the ball to run the clock out, your confidence comes back.”
As well, the Titans were even able to get Jake Locker in for his first NFL regular season action. The top draft pick mopped up for Hasselbeck in the final minutes of the game and was 0-for-1 passing.
What it added up to was the Titans most lopsided win of the season and a 3-1 record that has them still tied with the Houston Texans for the lead an AFC South race that is quickly shaping up as a two-team race.