There was a resurgence of “Smashmouth” football in Nashville on Monday night. Will the offensive momentum the Tennessee Titans showcased in the second half carry over to Cleveland?
Don’t Underestimate the Dawg Pound
The Browns haven’t been able to get a win this season, but they’ve been close. The Titans cannot overlook a hungry Cleveland team looking to earn a victory at home.
Historically, Cleveland has had the Titans number. In 64 meetings, the Browns have the edge yielding a winning record of 35-29 over Tennessee. Cleveland has been victorious in two of the past three meetings.
Last season, the Titans narrowly defeated the Browns 28-26. Tennessee was able to hold off Cleveland’s relentless fourth quarter surge to win in Nissan Stadium. Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota tossed three touchdowns and one interception.
In Mariota’s rookie season, the Cleveland defense pummeled and pounded the “Hawaiian Hero” throughout. Led by ex-NFL quarterback Johnny Manziel, the Titans fell behind early and gave up 14 first quarter points. Tennessee was unable to mount a comeback and left the ‘Land without a win, losing 28-14.
Passing From the Pocket
The Titans need to roll out the same gameplan used against Indy. Mariota proved he can be an effective and accurate pocket passer.
— Tennessee Titans (@Titans) October 17, 2017
The Browns pass defense ranks 10 spots higher than the Colts in terms of passing yards allowed. However, Cleveland is tied for dead-last with New England in allowing the most passing touchdowns, with 14.
The Titans will have to be effective in the passing game as running the football may be more difficult. Cleveland ranks second in fewest rushing yards allowed per attempt with three. The Browns also field a top 10 run defense.
Expect Mariota to work Cleveland’s secondary, but do not expect the Titans to avoid feeding their running back tandem for balance.
As mentioned above, Cleveland’s run defense has proven to be the strength of their defense through the first six weeks. However, the Titans running back duo will arguably be the toughest task the Browns will have faced thus far.
Cleveland had to square off with Le’Veon Bell in the season opener, but he clearly had some rust following his offseason holdout. The Pro Bowl stud only managed to gain 32 yards on 10 carries.
In week two, the Browns faced a Ravens team with no clear-cut dominant back. Javorius Allen rushed for 66, with Alex Collins and Terrence West adding 64 yards combined. Against Indy, Frank Gore ran for 57 yards on 25 touches. The Bengals rookie Joe Mixon scraped up 29 yards as quarterback Andy Dalton put up the same total.
The New York Jets running game was stuffed by Cleveland. Elijah McGuire put up 20 yards. Last week, the Browns faced a flaming hot Houston team. Cleveland allowed D’Onta Foreman to rumble for 59. Lamar Miller added 41 and rookie sensation Deshaun Watson galloped for 23.
With all that being said, Bell is the only running back Cleveland played this season that has rushed for over 100 yards. It took Bell four weeks into the season to find his groove, but the Browns faced him without it.
Both DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry have rushed for over 100 yard. Both Murray and Henry have recorded a 70 plus yard touchdown score. The smashmouth aspect of the offense has been rediscovered against Indy, after being abandoned against Houston and Miami.
The Titans will need to demonstrate a balanced attack and display imposing offensive dominance over the winless Browns.
Stats referenced at ESPN.com and NFL.com
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