NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Titans believe they’ve taken a very big step in winning consecutive games for the first time in more than two seasons.
The Cleveland Browns head home still looking for their first victory this season.
Marcus Mariota threw for 284 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for 64 more as the Titans held off Cleveland for their first home win this season 28-26 on Sunday .
Now the Titans are eager to build with two more games left in this home stand.
“We have more steps to take,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey said.
The Titans (3-3) also notched their first win at home against a team not the Jacksonville Jaguars since the end of the 2013 season and their first winning streak since the end of the 2013 season.
Mularkey is 3-3 this season, matching the win total his predecessor managed in 23 games before being fired last November.
At 0-6, Cleveland is mired in its worst start since the 1999 expansion Browns lost their first seven. First-year coach Hue Jackson said his Browns kept playing hard.
“We just have to do better,” Jackson said.
Here are some things to know about the Titans and Browns:
AFC SOUTH RUMBLE
The Titans will host Indianapolis and Jacksonville within the next 11 days, giving Tennessee a chance to push its way near the top of a division Houston won last season with a 9-7 record. That’s a big challenge for a team that is 3-16 on its home field since the end of the 2013 season. But Mularkey hopes this win builds the Titans’ confidence.
“It cannot hurt you,” Mularkey said. “It’s part of what we’re trying to do here, the process of trying to build this thing, you need things like this to happen for you. … That’s a win, regardless of the final score.”
CROWELL SHUT DOWN
Browns running back Isaiah Crowell ranked second in the NFL two weeks ago only to be shut down by New England a week ago with only 22 yards on 17 carries. He did even worse against the Titans with only 16 yards on nine carries. The Titans held Cleveland to 40 yards rushing on 15 attempts, forcing the Browns to put the ball in Cody Kessler’s hands.
The rookie, knocked out of last week’s 33-13 loss to New England with an injured chest, threw 41 passes for a career-high 336 yards and two TDs. He became the third Browns rookie to throw for at least 300 yards and was second only to Brandon Weeden, who threw for 364 yards on Dec. 2, 2012, at Oakland.
Mariota’s longest pass Sunday was a 48-yard touchdown to wide receiver Kendall Wright, who missed the first three games recovering from a preseason hamstring injury. Wright finished with eight catches for 133 yards, the second-best performance of his career. It also marked the first 100-yard receiving game for this franchise since Dec. 20, 2015.
The Titans came in tied for eighth in the NFL with 12 sacks this season, and they added six more by six different players taking advantage of a reshuffled Browns’ offensive line missing left guard Joe Bitonio. Linebacker Brian Orakpo got one in the third quarter for his seventh this season, giving him at least one sack in five straight games and matching his total for all of last season. “Coach (Dick) LeBeau is dialing them up, and he knows what’s effective so we are just making it work,” linebacker Avery Williamson said. “Hope it continues.”
Not only did Cleveland’s skid grow longer, so did the Browns’ injury list. A team that came in with 12 players on injured reserve or the non-football injury list added defensive back Jordan Poyer with a lacerated kidney. Poyer was taken to a Nashville hospital during the game after being injured trying to tackle on a punt return. “Obviously, we all know that’s pretty serious, so we’ll see where he is from there,” Jackson said.
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