By Steve Camp
Cold, Hard Football Facts Titans beat writer

Looking to keep a good thing going, Tennessee traveled to Cleveland this week to take on the 2 – 1 Browns.  After Cleveland put the first points on the board with a Phil Dawson field goal, Tennessee took over the game and never looked back.  Despite losing Kenny Britt last week, the Titans continued to throw the ball efficiently and also found a running game for the first time this year.  After their 31 – 13 win, the Titans did their best LeBron impersonation and… got the hell out of Cleveland. 

1. Back on the wagon. 

Against Cleveland, Chris Johnson finally made his long-awaited season debut.  What’s that you say?  He’s played every game this year?  Well you couldn’t tell by… come to think of it you just couldn’t tell.  Johnson (and every other player trying to rush for Tennessee) looked like hot garbage during the first 3 games of the year.  Indeed Tennessee was dead last in Rushing Yards Per Attempt (2.38 YPC) coming into their Week 4 matchup, but Johnson hit his stride today, averaging 4.4 YPC on 23 carries (101 total yards).  It was Johnson’s first game over 4.0 YPC since Week 16 of last year and his first 100-yard game since Week 15 of last year.  Unfortunately, despite Johnson’s 4.4 YPC, Tennessee earned 3.86 YPC overall.  If Johnson misses time, there’s little reason to think Tennessee’s other running backs can provide much threat because the offensive line is still not blocking well on run plays.  But the linemen definitely know a thing or two about…

2. Pass blocking. 

Despite serious struggles in the running game, the Titans field one of the best pass blocking offensive lines in the league.  Against Cleveland they gave up 0 sacks and the lone interception looked more like a communication problem between Hasselbeck and his receiver than a rushed pass due to poor blocking, although it will count against the linemen in the Offensive Hog Index.  On the season, the front five have given up 5.26 percent Negative Pass Plays, solidly top 5 in the league.  If the linemen can maintain their pass blocking at this level, their struggles in the running game won’t be much of an obstacle for Tennessee.  That great blocking has contributed significantly to…

3. Matt Hasselbeck’s big start.  Tennessee’s new-old quarterback posted a Passer Rating above 90 in the first three games of the year and he kept the streak alive today, posting a 108.33 (including Jake Locker’s only pass attempt, Tennessee’s total Passer Rating was 105.16).  Hasselbeck last posted 4 straight 90+ Passer Ratings during the last 4 weeks of the 2005 season on his way to the Superbowl.  Against the Browns Hasselbeck posted a monstrous mark of 11 Passing Yards Per Attempt (again including Locker’s pass, Tennessee had a total of 10.28 PYPA).  Despite the loss of Kenny Britt, Hasselbeck threw for 3 touchdowns and completed two passes of 50+ yards.  Tennessee’s passing game is both efficient and explosive, and it is unquestionably driven by Hasselbeck.

4. Titans slam the door.  Not to be outdone by Hasselbeck’s very impressive performance thus far, Tennessee’s pass defense set their own bar high in the first three games, then lived up to it in the fourth.  Despite impressive bulk numbers (40 of 61, 350 yards), Colt McCoy was forced into an inefficient performance.  The Titans allowed only 5.44 Passing Yards Per Attempt and held McCoy to a Passer Rating of just 79.27, resulting in a Passer Rating Differential of 25.89 in favor of the Titans.  The Browns suffered 8.20 percent Negative Pass Plays due to Tennessee’s consistent pressure and opportunistic interceptions.  Tennessee never allowed a truly explosive passing play, the longest Cleveland completion being a 27 yard pass to Montario Hardesty.

5. Tennessee playing efficient football.  Hasselbeck’s big performance and Tennessee’s smothering defense combined to tilt the scales of efficiency squarely in Tennessee’s favor against the Browns.  The Titans finished the day with a Scoreability Index of 10.71 Yards Per Point Scored, bringing their season mark to 15.78 from 18.54 YPPS.  On the other side of the ball, Tennessee forced Cleveland to gain 32.00 YPPS.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Cleveland earned 416 net offensive yards but scored only 13 points.  Bend but don’t break, indeed.