The Browns fell to the Tennessee Titans 43-13 in a game that was close for three quarters and quickly unraveled in the final half of the fourth.
Here are our six plays that changed the season-opening loss for Cleveland.
This one set up the game’s first touchdown, a 4-yard touchdown run by Dontrell Hilliard. It was reminiscent of Mayfield’s strike to Higgins in Week 1 of the preseason that went for a touchdown and got the crowd going early.
Additionally important was the yardage gained, considering the down-and-distance situation for the Browns, who were facing a second-and-23 from the Tennessee 39 after an illegal blindside block erased a gain of 12. It was a tough ask to expect the Browns to get it all back at once, but they did that and more, taking an early 6-0 lead and landing the first punch of what would be a prolonged bout.
2. Two third-down penalties put Titans on doorstep of touchdown
The Browns were flagged for an offsides on third-and-4, and that was only after a questionable holding call on Damarious Randall erased what would have been a third-down stop on third-and-14. Both gave Tennessee a fresh set of downs, with the offsides putting the Titans inside the Browns’ 10. Two plays later, Derrick Henry scored his first touchdown of the day.
3. Safety of Baker Mayfield
In what was a tale of much of the game, the Browns were in unfortunate field-position situations often. They were pinned on their own 3 at the start of a possession early in the second quarter, and a false start penalty pushed them even further back to inside their 2. That’s when the pocket, built of shuffled parts after Greg Robinson’s ejection, collapsed on Mayfield for a sack and safety. Kendall Lamm, who replaced Robinson at left tackle, suffered a knee injury on the play, further compounding the Browns’ offensive line issues.
Check out photos of the Tennessee Titans at Cleveland Browns
4. Mayfield to Landry sets up touchdown
In desperate need of momentum and facing third-and-16, Mayfield escaped another collapsing pocket and fired a dart to Jarvis Landry for his first reception of the season, a gain of 23 and a fresh set of downs. It breathed new life into the offense and confidence into Mayfield, who again turned to Landry shortly thereafter for a gain of 34, putting the Browns at the Titans’ 3. The next play, Mayfield fired a pass into the chest of David Njoku for a touchdown that re-energized a crowd that had grown anxious.
5. Derrick Henry’s 75-yard screen
The Browns had just scored quickly and appeared poised to complete a comeback effort if they could just get a stop. They’d done so multiple times earlier. It was conceivable.
Then, Derrick Henry took a screen pass 75 yards down the far sideline untouched for a touchdown.
Henry’s screen unfolded slowly enough for those watching to wonder if a nightmare was coming to life. He’s large and powerful but not extremely fast to a naked eye perched above the field, and as he moved closer toward the end zone, the desperation to see a defender in brown and orange step in his path only increased. One never did, resulting in a touchdown that returned the Browns right back to where they were before Mayfield’s scoring drive. They never moved any closer.
6. Kevin Byard’s interception
Trailing by nine points after Henry’s catch and run for a touchdown, the Browns started their ensuing drive with a run for a first down by Nick Chubb. It didn’t stand, though, as it was called back by a holding call on tight end Demetrius Harris.
This sequence again backed the Browns up and, with less than a quarter to play, forced them to resort to throwing downfield passes on nearly every play. Eventually, Mayfield was picked off by Pro Bowl safety Kevin Byard on a play Mayfield said afterward was “just a bad throw” intended for Odell Beckham Jr.
“(Beckham) was at the right depth, right place, bad throw,” Mayfield said.
Mayfield also said afterward his team was in the game until he threw his second interception of the game, which came after the Byard pick. But this is the final, game-changing play, as it led to a quick Titans touchdown for a 29-13 lead and took most of the wind out of Cleveland’s sails for the day.