For one day, they looked even stronger.
Six days after the Browns (2-1) were gutted by seeing Chubb, the heart and soul of the team, carted off in tears with a severe knee injury at Pittsburgh, Garrett and Cleveland's defense stepped up with a dominant performance that overwhelmed the Titans (1-2).
The Browns' offense did its part as well, with Deshaun Watson bouncing back from two subpar performances to start the season with his best day since signing with Cleveland.
Watson completed 27 of 33 passes for 289 yards and two touchdowns, his 43-yarder to Amari Cooper putting the Browns up 27-3 in the fourth quarter. Other than an ill-advised pitch while being harassed, Watson was on target.
“That’s Deshaun, that’s who he is,” said Cooper, who had 116 yards on seven catches. “He’s just going to continue to amaze us all every week.”
As difficult as it was to lose Chubb, Watson said the Browns were inspired by seeing him back at the team's facility this week.
“There was of course, a little sadness and disappointment on his face,” Watson said. "But at the same time he looked every single one of us in our eyes. He told me, ‘Go get it because I need it,’ And not just for himself, but just for this team, this organization.
"So there was no doubt in mind that were going to come out here and play good.”
Tennessee has never had a worse day on offense.
It was the fewest yards for the Titans since they relocated from Houston in 1997. The previous low was 98 against Jacksonville in 2006.
The Browns held Tennessee All-Pro running back Derrick Henry to 20 yards on 11 carries, forced the Titans to punt seven times in nine possessions and held them to six first downs.
It was so one-sided that on Tennessee's lone scoring drive — capped by a 44-yard field goal from Nick Folk — the Titans lost 9 yards.
“When you play like that and when you coach like that in this league, you get your (butt) beat," Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. "Plain and simple. It’s disappointing.”
Tannehill was under siege all game. He was sacked five times, completed 13 of 25 passes for 104 yards and never got Tennessee's offense moving.
Garrett set the tone from the start.
With the Titans driving for a possible score before halftime, Garrett sacked Tannehill on the final play of the half — a fitting finish for an attacking defense unleashed by first-year coordinator Jim Schwartz, who spent the past two seasons as an advisor with the Titans.
On Friday, Garrett conducted his weekly news conference while eating a sandwich wrap.
It was merely an appetizer.
Cleveland's All-Pro end devoured the Titans, particularly left tackle Andre Dillard. On the last play of the half, Garrett sped around Dillard and was still being blocked when he grabbed and took down Tannehill.
“When Myles do that, he’s the best player in the world,” Watson said. “We believe that and we know that. We see it every day in practice and we see it every day on Sunday. He wanted to show that he’s the best guy in the world at that position.”
Garrett's sack effectively ended the game, but Ford helped end any doubts with his TD run in the third quarter that put the Browns up 20-3.
An exclamation point for Cleveland's defense came on the first two plays of the fourth when Alex Wright and Garrett recorded sacks on consecutive plays, much to the delight of Schwartz, who smiled on the sideline.
Watson's TD pass to Ford came after Cleveland's quarterback took a shot to the head from linebacker Arden Key, who was called for roughing the passer on the same play the Titans were penalized for pass interference.
Watson was checked by trainers but stayed in and connected four plays later with Ford.
At that point, the Browns had outgained the Titans 117-2.
The Browns had what should have been a touchdown taken away in the first half, when field judge Jeff Shears ruled Cooper stepped out of bounds after a catch.
However, Cooper, who may have gotten away with a push, never touched the Cleveland sideline.
The play is not reviewable, and the Browns settled for a 52-yard field goal by Dustin Hopkins.
“I got robbed of a touchdown,” Cooper said, smiling. “I knew I didn't step out.”
Tennessee's DeAndre Hopkins extended his streak of catching at least one pass to 148 games. He has caught a pass in every game in his career and his run is the longest active streak in the league.
Titans: Backup RB and special teamer Julius Chestnut (left leg) was injured on Tennessee's first punt. He was unable to put any weight on his leg while being taken to the locker room. ... CB Sean Murphy-Bunting, who forced and recovered a fumble in the first quarter, was evaluated for a concussion.
Titans: Host another AFC North opponent, Cincinnati, next Sunday.
Browns: Host Baltimore next Sunday.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl
- Jim Mello
- Frank Steratore
- Craig Wrolstad
- Steve Woods
- Tripp Sutter
- Grantis Bell
- Jeff Shears