By the end of their one-sided 43-13 defeat of the Cleveland Browns in their 2019 season opener, the Tennessee Titans had sucked a lot of hope out of First Energy Stadium.
Browns fans started heading for the exits en masse just a few minutes into the fourth quarter.
Cleveland was the team with more offensive weapons, speed on defense and hype entering the game. But, the Titans were the more disciplined team and the team that executed better, two things that earned them a 1-0 record.
It was early in the game when Cleveland’s lack of discipline began to show. Their offense scored a touchdown on the first drive of the game but quickly began a pattern after that of getting in their own way with frequent penalties.
Three mental errors by the Browns, including two personal fouls and a neutral zone infraction penalty, aided the Titans on their first touchdown drive of the game in the second quarter. The penalties kept the ball moving down the field, and RB Derrick Henry finished it off with his first of two touchdowns.
One of the fouls that Cleveland committed during that drive resulted in their starting left tackle, Greg Robinson, being ejected. At the end of a play, Robinson kicked Titans safety Kenny Vaccaro in the head and was flagged for unnecessary roughness.
Where the Browns were reckless—they committed 18 penalties for 182 over the course of the game—the Titans were efficient and clean. The team committed very few fouls in all three phases, something that shouldn’t be surprising, considering the Titans had the least penalties in the NFL last season.
Even with a first-time play-caller running the show in Arthur Smith, the Titans did not have any visible issues with miscommunication or a lack of discipline on offense. That allowed rookie receiver A.J. Brown to hit the 100-yard mark in his first career game.
As the second half got underway, the disparity of discipline between the Browns and the Titans again started to show, though it no longer had to do with penalties.
The Titans had the lead entering the third quarter, and, despite some issues with pass protection in the first half, the offense kept its foot on the gas and found some consistency.
QB Marcus Mariota effectively utilized the short passing game, which kept the Browns defense from being able to build up pressure. He threw for three touchdowns in the second half, including two to TE Delanie Walker.
The Browns, in contrast, did not overcome the issues that they were facing in the second half. The team, as a whole, allowed its lack of discipline to fester, which resulted in a total meltdown.
QB Baker Mayfield began trying to force things, and he threw three interceptions as he did so.
The Browns’ lack of discipline made them look like exactly what they are: a talented team with a first-time head coach that will likely continue struggling to get out of its own way.
The Titans, on the other hand, looked like exactly what they want to be: a well-coached team that can win in numerous ways.
And this week, they won in a big way because of their discipline and execution.
Up next, the Titans will face one of their division rivals, the Indianapolis Colts, in Nashville for their home opener.
Cover image: USA Today/Ken Blaze