NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans' 41-35 loss to the Browns was nowhere near as close as the score indicated. Sometimes things just snowball and there is no turning back.
At least the Titans made a valiant effort to get back into the game in the second half. But it was not enough to overcome the 31-point deficit they found themselves in after the first two quarters. Although it will be tempting to close the door on the frustrating loss and quickly move on to the next opponent, the Titans have to take a long look at Sunday's game and figure out how they can keep it from happening again.
"I don't think you can flush it away," coach Mike Vrabel said. "There aren't enough opportunities to say, 'Well, it just happened.' I look at it as a very good reminder of how we have to play and how we have to complement each other in all three phases. We have to play a certain style. You can show some positives that are in there and show and teach the things that are going to get you beat."
Added quarterback Ryan Tannehill, "We can't forget it without taking a real look at why this game went the way it did, evaluating that, making the corrections. Once we're able to do that, we'll put it to bed and get ready for the next one. We have to learn from this one, clean some things up."
The defense was no match for the Browns passing game. Quarterback Baker Mayfield picked the Titans' secondary apart thanks to a lack of pass rush and some serious coverage mishaps. Everything worked for the Browns in the first half as they pulled out all of the tricks -- including a reverse pass to Mayfield and a touchdown pass to offensive lineman Kendall Lamm on a tackle-eligible play.
Giving up a season-high 41 points will cause a team to do some soul searching. Safety Kevin Byard said the players have to look at themselves in the mirror the next couple of days before heading into the facility on Wednesday ready to get to work with a fired-up attitude.
Some of the issues that plagued the Titans earlier in the season reappeared on Sunday. The Browns converted 10 of their 16 third downs to send Tennessee's opponent third-down percentage to an NFL-low 53.57% on the year. Cleveland was able to come away with a touchdown on four of their five trips into the red zone.
A team that has deep postseason aspirations can't expect to win with such a porous defense in key areas of the game. Falling back into their old ways after a couple of solid performances in back-to-back road wins over the Baltimore Ravens and Indianapolis Colts is the exact opposite of what the Titans need to do if they want to secure an AFC South division title.
"There’s no reason for us to be up this high, find our identity and then come down to the level we did today, especially in the first half," safety Kenny Vaccaro said on Sunday.
But all is not lost. Their offense is still putting up 29.9 points per game (third-best in the NFL) and averaging 389.5 yards per game. Tennessee has to put the defensive struggles behind them as they shift their focus to the remaining games on the schedule.
Tennessee currently holds the No. 4 seed in the playoffs. Although the Titans and Colts have identical 8-4 records, the Titans have the tiebreaker over the Colts because of their 3-1 division record versus Indianapolis' 2-2 record against the AFC South. The Titans control their own destiny with two more division games remaining on their schedule. A Week 14 matchup on the road against the Jacksonville Jaguars will give the Titans a chance to get back on track and secure another valuable win against an AFC South opponent.