Titans ride defense to spoil opener for Baker Mayfield, Browns

CLEVELAND -- The Tennessee Titans gave a much-ballyhooed Cleveland Browns offense all it could handle leading to a 43-13 victory Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium.

Outside linebacker Cameron Wake's two and a half sacks, one of which was a safety, helped spark Tennessee to an early lead after allowing Cleveland to score on the opening drive. Wake joined the 100-sack club with the safety in the second quarter.

The defense almost scored as much as Cleveland's offense. Wake's safety and Malcolm Butler's pick-six accounted for nine points with the defense holding the Browns to 13 points. Defensive back Logan Ryan notched his first interception and was a menace while blitzing off the edge.

Promising trend: The Titans' defense is the real deal. After allowing a touchdown on the first drive by Cleveland, it kept the Browns out of the end zone until the fourth quarter and forced five punts. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees' scheme was too physical for the Browns and frustrated them early. Pees dialed up a series of nickel blitzes and paired it with Wake's pressure off the edge to keep Baker Mayfield under duress, which led to his three interceptions. Expect to see the Titans continue to dial up the blitz to get pressure on the quarterback.

QB breakdown: Marcus Mariota was under a lot of pressure but did a good job finding his receivers. He stood up to the pass rush and delivered the ball down the field to rookie wideout A.J. Brown twice, leading to three receptions for 100 yards. Mariota also found Henry for a 75-yard catch-and-run on a screen pass that tied for the longest completion in his career. Offensive coordinator Arthur Smith called a couple of designed quarterback runs, allowing Mariota to also show off his rushing ability.

Pivotal play: Henry's 75-yard touchdown came at the perfect time for the Titans in the third quarter. Cleveland had just scored on a 3-yard pass from Mayfield to David Njoku. The play cut the Titans' lead to 15-13 following an extra point and brought life back into what had been a very silent crowd. But all of the Browns' momentum was lost on Henry's touchdown that extended the lead to 22-13.

Key takeaway: The Titans may have found the answer for their normally pedestrian offense. The balanced game plan by Smith complements Tennessee's defense. The defense was third in scoring defense (19 points per game) last season and looks like it will be able to keep that same pace for most of the season. Tennessee's offense scored 31 points against a talented Browns defense. The Titans will be a force if they can manage to average at least 24 points per game.