At 1 p.m. central time in Nashville it looked as if the Cleveland Browns had already lost their Week 5 game to the Tennessee Titans. Backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, of all people, had just thrown a 75-yard touchdown to give the Titans a 28-3 lead.
Down by more than three touchdowns on the road, Browns fans hadn't just hit the panic button – they punted the button through a window in frustration. A 1-3 record was imminent.
There's one drive and one player who specifically put on a Superman cape and saved the world from crashing down on the Browns. His name is Ben Tate.
With 2:38 left in the first half, the Browns had to score a touchdown. A few quick Brian Hoyer passes had the Browns in business close to the red zone. Then it was time to turn over the rock to Tate. Three straight carries went for six, five and 13 yards. Hoyer eventually finished off the drive with a one-yard touchdown pass to Dray. But the grunt work inside the red zone was Tate's doing.
The score gave the Browns the ray of hope they needed. The Cleveland coaching staff recognized Tate's power-running style was wearing down the Titans front seven. Tate told reporters after the game he was running with a vengeance.
"I think that's the way that I always run," said Tate. "I always run with a big chip on my shoulder. I feel like I have to prove something every game and that's what keeps me motivated."
So even in the second half when the Browns were also fighting the clock and the score, they were content on feeding Tate the football. How's this for balance -- Tate had 11 carries in the first half and 11 in the second, all on the way to a career-high 123 yards. Six of those carries went were first-downs.
Tate was also quick to give credit to all of his teammates. For a running back to rush for 123 yards and his longest carry to be just 15 yards is a testament to the Cleveland offensive line. More importantly, Tate, who in his own matter-of-fact-way proclaimed himself the starter since day one, was more than happy to see both Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell get their carries. The rookies combined for 13 touches and 41 yards.
"Those guys are young and they are very good backs so I didn't mind it at all," Tate said. "It doesn't bother me because we are a team. I know that at the end of the game when it comes time to win, I was going to be in the game."
The plan for how much to use Tate wasn't exactly hammered in stone, according to coach Mike Pettine. The Browns were certainly going to start with the 26-year-old, but they weren't sure if his sprained knee was going to give him problems. Once it was clear Tate was slashing Tennessee's defense, the Browns gladly kept him on the field for a majority of the game.
"I think it was important for Ben [Tate] to come back and it was good for his confidence," said Pettine after the win. "He did a real nice job running in the zone scheme and getting his shoulders squared up."
It's a smaller sample size but Tate's now averaging 5.9 yards per carry, tying him for first in the NFL. It's safe to assume the Steelers are going to be seeing a heavy dose of number 44 this Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium.