So...those dreams about the Cleveland Browns heading into the bye week at 3-1? They didn't come true.
There are a lot of things we learned about the Browns today, some of which I'll cover in my full game review on Tuesday. For now, here are two main things I learned. The first is that the Tennessee Titans look like a really good football team. I don't want to take anything away from them. Matt Hasselbeck looked better than I have seen him in a long time, and their pass protection was superb. Defensively, the Titans indeed have a deep defensive line rotation and play aggressive in the secondary.
The second thing is that the Browns have a problem finding the right personnel units to use in certain situations, and that is preventing them from sustaining drives. It is fine to get creative at times, but do that when you have the lead, not when you're trying to get the basics going offensively. The rotation between Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty never seemed to get an energetic Hillis into rhythm, and even third-string back Armond Smith was thrown in on a critical pitch play.
Things didn't start bad for the Browns in the first half. They had a decent first drive and then Brad Maynard pinned the Titans back. Cleveland forced a three-and-out, and later had Phil Dawson connect on a 49-yard field goal. That's when things quickly started going downhill. Dawson's kickoff went out of bounds, and Hasselbeck went to work on our defense. He hit tight end Craig Stevens for a touchdown to give the Titans a 7-3 advantage. The Browns responded with another Dawson field goal, this time a 50-yarder to make it 7-6. On the Titans' next offensive play, linebacker Scott Fujita was beat by tight end Jared Cook on a crossing route. Fujita was too slow to catch up to Cook, and a whiff by safety Usama Young allowed Cook to go 80 yards for the touchdown. That made it 14-6 Titans.
Cleveland still looked like they could stay in the game, but then Nate Washington got wide open on what should have been an illegal pick play by the Titans just before the first half ended. That led to a 57-yard completion, followed by a four-yard touchdown pass to give the Titans a 21-6 lead heading into halftime.
The Browns were off to a slow start offensively to start the second half as Tennessee pushed their lead to 24-6. Still, with a touchdown drive, the Browns still could have made a game of it. They were putting things together before McCoy rolled out and made a terrible decision to throw the ball down the field and into the arms of Jordan Babineaux, who returned the pass 97 yards for a touchdown. It was a blowout by then. The Browns got one sympathy touchdown in the fourth quarter to tight end Ben Watson (side note: the Titans were still playing pretty aggressive).
There you have it. Usually you want the bye week to come at a time when injuries are running rampant, but this is probably a good time for it to arrive for the Browns. They really need to find themselves offensively and remember the fact that Hillis is a major reason why this offense has success.
At least Pittsburgh lost. The Bengals did win. If the Ravens lose to the Jets tonight, the Browns will be in a four-way tie for first-place in the division. There is no reason to write the Browns off this early in the season, but there's work to be done.