Browns Rebound With Another Defensive Gem And A Deshaun Watson Breakout

Browns rebound with another defensive gem and a Deshaun Watson breakout

You must have an active subscription to read this story.

Click Here to subscribe Now!

Editor's note: Tony Grossi is a Cleveland Browns analyst for and 850 ESPN Cleveland. He has covered the Browns since 1984.

Instant takeaways from Browns 27-3 win over Tennessee Titans …

1. More like it: Maybe Deshaun Watson just needed a familiar defensive foe to relax him. Mike Vrabel’s Tennessee Titans were the elixir for Watson as he put together his finest game in a Browns uniform. Looking more comfortable as the game went on, Watson posted a 123.4 passer rating on 27 of 33 passing for 289 yards and touchdowns to Jerome Ford (19 yards) and Amari Cooper (43). The game was so in hand that Kevin Stefanski put in backup QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson for some reps with 4:49 to play. In his first NFL start, Ford also ran for a touchdown as the Browns rode their unstoppable defense to a 27-3 rout. It silenced Watson’s critics and put the Browns’ season back on track with a 2-1 record. Myles Garrett led another unrelenting defensive surge with 3.5 sacks and five total hits on Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who had no chance behind an overmatched offensive line. In one of their worst offensive performances in club history, the Titans were held to 94 total yards, six first downs and 2 of 12 on third downs. Their only points were set up on an Elijah Moore fumble in the first quarter. One-time NFL rushing champion Derrick Henry was held to 20 yards on 11 carries.

2. Welcome back: Kareem Hunt played a lot in his first game back with the Browns. He received a warm welcome from the crowd when he trotted out for his first snap on the first series of the game. Hunt was utilized much like in his previous stint with the team. He carried the ball five times for 13 yards and had two catches for 22 yards.

Myles Garrett was dominant in the passing game and the running game. He couldn't be contained by the Titans. (Cleveland Browns)



3. Domination: The first half ended with a Garrett sack at the Browns’ 21 with the Titans out of time-outs to preserve a 13-3 Browns lead. It was the exclamation point of utter domination by the Browns defense and pretty much ended any threat of the Titans making a game of it. The Titans were held to 13 yards on their first three series. They were able to move the ball on their final possession with one minute left in the half by repeatedly throwing into Browns single coverage. DeAndre Hopkins made a catch of 26 yards over M.J. Emerson and Chris Moore plucked one off Cameron Mitchell’s helmet for 33 yards. But from the Browns’ 11, the defense cranked it up. Anthony Walker deflected a pass at the goal line, receiving back Tyjae Spears  was tackled for no yards after a catch by Juan Thornhill, and then Garrett bull-dozed two Titans blockers for the sack of Tannehill as time ran out. Wow.

4. Cooper hosed: Amari Cooper made a nice catch over cornerback Kristian Fulton and looked like he had a chance for a 65-yard touchdown, but an official ruled he stepped out of bounds at the Titans’ 40. Cooper kept running for a little bit, then stopped short of the end zone. If he would have run all the way, the call might have been overturned. Replays clearly showed Cooper did not step out of bounds. The drive ended in a ho-hum Dustin Hopkins field goal of 52 yards through the Dawg Pound goal posts. Cooper finished the scoring with a 43-yard TD in the fourth quarter when Watson found him alone behind the Titans' beleaguered secondary. The Titans committed two pass interference penalties and two costly holds on the day.

5. What’s he doing?: Watson had a brain lock on a series in the second quarter. He was all but sacked, but saw Moore behind the line of scrimmage and frantically tossed the ball in Moore's direction while going down. Startled, Moore covered the ball in the dirt for a 16-yard loss.

6. Thank you very much: The Titans immediately bailed the Browns out of that hole, however. On second-and-26, they committed two penalties. A forearm smash to Watson’s grill by Arden Key was declined because cornerback Kristian Fulton interfered with Cooper. Watson briefly left the field as the officials figured things out. (The Titans also had another pass interference penalty earlier on the drive.) Watson eventually tossed a TD to Ford, all alone in the left corner of the end zone after sneaking behind safety Azeez Al-Shaair. When the Browns faced short-yardage on third-and-1 from the 21, instead of a quarterback sneak they used a direct snap to tight end Harrison Bryant to convert it. Bryant had another short-yardage conversion. Finally, in the fourth quarter Watson engineered a conventional quarterback sneak. It was successful.

7. Stay out: A strip-and-recovery by cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting on a Moore reception set up the first red zone snaps in three games for a Browns opponent. The Browns’ defense responded like hungry dogs let out of a cage. First down, Derrick Henry was stoned for a 3-yard loss by Garrett. Second down, Garrett stripped Tannehill from the blind side and popped the ball loose, and Henry recovered. Third down, a screen pass to tight end Chig Okonkwo was blown up on a low hit by Denzel Ward. Three snaps, minus 26 yards. Nick Folk’s 44-yard field goal tied the score, 3-3.

8. Razzle dazzle: Stefanski’s opening play script was loaded with gadgets featuring Moore. On one, he took a Watson handoff, lateraled to Donovan Peoples-Jones, who lateraled back to Watson, who connected with Moore for a 14-yard gain. Another time, Moore took a handoff and flipped to Marquise Goodwin coming on an end-around. Moore had three catches on the first drive – all for first downs – for 31 yards. The series died when Watson was blasted for no gain on a keeper to the left. Kareem Hunt entered on the fifth play, to a rousing ovation, and had three snaps on the series. He carried one time for 1 yard. Hopkins’ 48-yard field goal put the Browns ahead, 3-0.

9. Pre-game notes: Two notables among Browns inactives were cornerback Greg Newsome (elbow) and offensive tackle James Hudson (ankle). Hudson’s injury led to Ty Nsekhe being promoted off the practice squad. Nsekhe, 37, was signed on Sept. 12. He has been under contract in the following leagues: AL2, Arena Football League (three teams), Canadian Football League, XFL and NFL (six teams). Other Browns inactives: Safety Ronnie Hickman, center Luke Wypler, defensive end Isaiah McGuire and defensive tackle Siaki Ika.