Browns 31

(2-1, 1-0 away)

Titans 28

(1-2, 1-1 home)

Coverage: CBS

1:00 PM ET, September 22, 2002


1 2 3 4 OT T
CLE 7 0 7 14 331
TEN 7 14 0 7 028

Couch throws two late TDs to spark Browns

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Tim Couch did his best to shut up the critics who thought backup Kelly Holcomb should be the Cleveland Browns' starting quarterback.

Allen's Analysis
Eric Allen
Question on the Browns: Have the Browns receivers finally established themselves as consistent threats?
One game doesn't make a player great, but I was surprised how well QB Tim Couch played. There is no QB controversy in Cleveland, Couch has established himself as No. 1. He's one of those players who makes his receivers look a lot better.

Question on the Titans: Why the inconsistency from Steve McNair and the Titans?
When McNair is healthy, he's a terrific ballplayer. But when he's nicked-up, McNair will make some plays but he won't be as consistent. Similarly, a healthy Eddie George is very dominant. But when these guys are nicked up, you can be successful against the Titans' offense.

Eric Allen played 14 seasons in the NFL for the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

Phil Dawson's 33-yard field goal with 10:47 left in overtime Sunday gave Cleveland a 31-28 victory over Tennessee after Couch rallied the Browns by throwing for three touchdowns, including two in the final 2:35 of regulation.

Couch was 36-of-50 for 326 yards in what he called his biggest moment yet in the NFL.

"There was a lot of talk this week whether I should even be the quarterback of this team. I've said all along I don't care what a lot of people on the outside think, but I know these guys in this locker room believe in me and I believe in myself,'' Couch said.

"Hopefully, today maybe I proved a point.''

Couch, who sat out the first two games after tearing scar tissue in his right elbow, showed why Cleveland coach Butch Davis had no qualms putting him back in despite Holcomb being the NFL's second-rated passer.

The 1999 top draft pick picked apart the Titans in helping the Browns (2-1) beat Tennessee for the second consecutive time.

Davis said he was proud of Couch for his play and how he ignored talk by people trying to create a quarterback controversy. He also loved how his Browns overcame four turnovers the Titans turned into three touchdowns.

"I don't think there is a team in the NFL more deserving to win a game like this, with the times we've been snake-bitten the last few years. I talked to the team early in the week, and we brought up the first game of the year,'' Davis said of losing to Kansas City when Dwayne Rudd was penalized for taking off his helmet, giving the Chiefs the chance to win on a field goal with no time left.

"We said we can let that game do one of two things. It can either build some character for the team, teach us a lesson to fight the entire 60 minutes, or we can let it break us. I knew this team wouldn't want to surrender.''

The Titans (1-2) led 28-14 with 5:06 left and blew a second-half lead for a second straight week. Coach Jeff Fisher apologized to the fans.

"We just simply could not make a play,'' he said.

Credit Couch.

He needed 11 plays to go 80 yards to cut Tennessee's lead to 28-21 with a 12-yard TD toss to Andre Davis with 2:35 to go.

With Tennessee ready for an onside kick, Dawson pooch-kicked the ball over the Titans, and Dennis Northcutt recovered it before it went out of bounds at the Titans 42. Nine plays later, and Couch found Northcutt and the receiver avoided rookie cornerback Mike Echols and scored an 8-yard pass with 12 seconds remaining.

Cleveland won the toss, and Couch needed eight plays to set up Dawson's winning field goal.

The Browns rolled up 403 yards offense, compared with just 187 for the Titans.

"They did what we preach all the time, which is that it's impossible for an offense to make plays when they're on the sideline,'' Titans receiver Kevin Dyson said. "They kept us there.''

The Titans hurt themselves the most in a very sloppy game; they had almost as many yards in penalties (67) as offense (128) through the first three quarters and went three-and-out five times. They looked so out of sync that a sold-out crowd booed repeatedly when Tennessee had the ball in the second half.

It was a confusing day for the officials, who called 21 total penalties, huddled repeatedly and wound up moving the ball back and forth several times.

The Titans had enough help from the Browns, including two fumbles by top draft pick William Green. Tennessee led 21-7 at halftime.

Northcutt got the Browns going on a 74-yard punt return TD that made it 21-14. He lost a punt off his hands two possessions later, and Steve McNair tossed his second scoring pass of the game, a 7-yarder to Kevin Dyson.

Then Couch, who threw for 75 yards on Cleveland's opening possession for a 7-0 lead, began the comeback.

Game notes

Dawson had connected on 21 consecutive field goals, the second-longest streak in club history. That ended in the second quarter when he was wide right on a 52-yarder. Davis said his kicker should be mad at him for making him attempt the kick. ... Titans CB Andre Dyson's TD interception return was the team's first since Keith Bulluck against Dallas on Christmas Day 2000. But he hurt his hip breaking up a pass at the end of the first half and didn't return. ... Cleveland LB Brent Boyer hurt his left leg when Orpheus Roye rolled over him. X-rays were negative. ... Northcutt's punt return was the first allowed by Tennessee since Sept. 10, 1995, when Andre Hastings did it for Pittsburgh.

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