September 8, 2019 / 8:39 PM / 15 days ago

Titans dampen Browns' high hopes with rout

Sep 8, 2019; Cleveland, OH, USA; Mitch Maletic of Columbus, OH poses with a giant bobble head of former Cleveland Browns player Bernie Kosar before the game between the Cleveland Browns and the Tennessee Titans at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Marcus Mariota threw for three touchdowns, Derrick Henry scored twice and the visiting Tennessee Titans clamped down on the error-prone Cleveland Browns for a season-opening 43-13 win on Sunday.

Mariota completed 14 of 24 passes for 248 yards, hitting all six of his second half passes for 143 yards. He broke the game open in the fourth quarter with scoring strikes of 11 and 7 yards to tight end Delanie Walker about 3 1/2 minutes apart.

Both of those scores came off short fields after interceptions of Baker Mayfield, temporarily deflating the high hopes of Browns fans looking for the team’s first division title since this version of the franchise was founded in 1999. Mayfield hit 25 of 38 throws for 285 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.

Cleveland played a sloppy, undisciplined game in coach Freddie Kitchens’ debut. It was penalized 18 times for 182 yards, and three other flags were declined or offset. Mayfield capped it by tossing his third interception with 3:08 left, with Malcolm Butler taking it 38 yards for a touchdown.

Cleveland opened its season with a bang, going 73 yards on eight plays to take a 6-0 lead on a 4-yard run by Dontrell Hilliard with 10:11 left in the first quarter. A missed extra-point attempt by rookie Austin Seibert hinted at the day’s remainder.

Browns mistakes colored the rest of the day, and Tennessee eventually took advantage. New Titans kicker Cairo Santos booted a 37-yard field goal with 6:32 left in the first quarter to get Tennessee on the board, and Henry’s 1-yard leap with 9:39 remaining in the second quarter put the Titans ahead to stay.

Frustration and penalties mounted for Cleveland. Left tackle Greg Robinson was ejected at the 4:49 mark of the second quarter for kicking Tennessee safety Kenny Vaccaro. The Browns finished the half with nine penalties for 107 yards and trailed 12-6 after Cameron Wake sacked Mayfield in the end zone for a safety.

Santos’ 53-yard field goal with 11:53 left in the third quarter upped the Titans’ lead to 15-6, but Mayfield drew Cleveland within two on a 3-yard touchdown pass to David Njoku at the 2:10 mark. However, Henry took a short pass from Mariota and zipped 75 yards for a game-changing score 13 seconds later.

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