Cleveland – A determined and motivated Rueben Droughns—along with a determined defense-- were the driving forces as the Browns slipped by the Tennessee Titans, 20-14 as they improved to 3-5 and snapped a three-game losing streak. Meanwhile, the Titans dropped to 2-7.
"I'm proud of our players for playing to the end," Romeo Crennel said. "It came down to one play and we made the one play at the end that was enough to win."
It looked as though the Browns had clinched the win with 1:44 to play as Andra Davis sacked Steve McNair at the Titans' 18 on fourth-and-9.
However, Tennessee stopped the Browns and used their timeouts to force a field goal try by Phil Dawson. He hit the field goal from 29 yards to seemingly clinch the game at 23-14, but a holding penalty by Steve Heiden negated the score.
Backed up 10 yards, Dawson's second attempt was wide and the Titans took over at the Browns' 30 with just 39 seconds to play and no timeouts remaining. It was Dawson's first miss of the season.
"We said if we got the ball to the 22 or 23 we had the opportunity for a field goal," Crennel said. "We thought we would put it on Phil because he's been consistent for us all year. The problem was we got the penalty and that hurt us."
McNair moved the Titans quickly and the Titans found themselves at the Browns' 27 with two seconds to play and having a chance to win the game. However, Pool intercepted the pass at the two-yard line as McNair was hit by Kenard Lang as he released the ball.
The Browns built a 20-7 lead largely on the legs of running back Reuben Droughns, who wanted to redeem himself for an embarrassing situation he put the Browns in this past week when he was charged with DUI.
He pleaded not guilty in court on Friday and will have a hearing in December. Droughns responded with 186 all-purpose yards. He rushed 20 times for 116 yards. He also caught four passes for 73 yards. Droughns was the only experienced back active for the game and had to leave several times late with cramping in his legs.
"It was good for the team to come out and get a win," Droughns said. "We were rolling on all cylinders."
"For me, I can't worry about the off the field things," he said. "For me, the field is like my cathedral and all I control is what I can do on the field."
"Reuben had a little drama in his life early in the week with the support of his teammates he wanted to go out and prove he was the type of player we wanted him to be," Crennel said. "His hard work paid off.
"Reuben wanted to have a good game, but he wants to have a good game every game."
With Droughns needed a break due to the cramps, rookie Jason Wright was thrust into his first NFL game and responded with a six-yard touchdown run. He finished with eight rushes for 19 yards, including the touchdown.
"I was glad for us to get a rushing touchdown," Droughns said. "He stepped up and I told him I was very excited for him. I told him to go out there and show case yourself."
Besides running the ball, Droughns had a career best 51-yard reception.
McNair was without wide receivers Drew Bennett and Tyrone Calico, who were both inactive and he threw to his tight ends all day. Erron Kinney had five catches for 74 yards and Bo Scaife caught five passes for 59 yards. McNair finished 18 of 41 for 235 yards.
Kris Brown cut the Browns lead to 20-14 with 7:13 to play on a 15-yard touchdown run after the Browns had extended their lead to 20-7 on a 19-yard field goal by Dawson.
The Browns opened the scoring when Dennis Northcutt caught a 58-yard touchdown pass from Trent Dilfer for a 7-0 lead. Northcutt got behind rookie cornerback Reynaldo Hill and the ball was under thrown, but Northcutt came back caught the ball and then was able to get out of the grasp of Hill. Northcutt tied a career-best with the 58-yarder. He finished with three receptions for 80 yards and a 31-yard run on a double reverse.
"Dennis Northcutt was able to come in and make some plays that will help his psyche because I know he was a little down," Crennel said.
Northcutt had no receptions against the Texans last Sunday.
The Titans tied the game at 7-7 with 1:24 to play in the first half as McNair hit Erron Kinney for a 24-yard touchdown pass. After holding the Titans out of the end zone for most of the first half, the Titans marched down the field in three plays covering 54 yards in just 53 seconds. The drive was started by a punt return by Lamont Thompson that took the ball to the Titan's 46.
The Browns took a 10-7 lead on their first possession of the third quarter as they went seven plays on 47 yards with a 37-yard field goal. The big play was a 49-yard reception by Antonio Bryant to take the ball inside the Titans' 20.
Wright's touchdown made it 17-7 and Dawson closed out their scoring with another field goal from 19 yards to make it 20-7.
Droughns was the work horse on the drive as he broke off a 17-yard and 31-yard runs on the drive. He took the ball inside the 10, but had to come out for a couple of plays due to cramping. Wright carried the ball twice to the two, but the Browns had to settle for a field goal.