Tennessee Titans running back LenDale White (25) runs against the Cleveland Browns in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday, Dec. 7, 2008. The Titans beat the Browns 28-9 to win the AFC South title. Defending for Cleveland
NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Titans aren’t about to be distracted by a power outage in their locker room or a struggling opponent. Not now. Not as a division champion. Kerry Collins threw two touchdowns, and Chris Johnson ran for 136 yards and a score as the Titans routed the Cleveland Browns 28-9 on Sunday to grab the AFC South title for the first time since 2002 in what they hope is the first of many goals reached this season. “Obviously, we’re all pleased and happy we won the division,” Collins said. “We know there’s a lot of things left we want to accomplish. Today was a good first step.” The Titans (12-1) have won 15 of their past 16 games, and are the first team to secure a postseason berth this year. They maintained at least a two-game lead with three to play for home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs, and a subdued celebration featured players dumping a cooler of water over coach Jeff Fisher. This is the Titans’ second consecutive playoff berth, secured with the franchise’s best record through 13 games. Fisher credited his Titans’ 10-0 start with helping them wrest the division away from Indianapolis. “It’s a rewarding feeling. Our goal when we left the playoff game in San Diego, the day we came back, was to have a home playoff game this year. That was our first goal, first and foremost. We’ve now guaranteed that. We’ll move onto the next step hopefully,” Fisher said. The Titans were a bit like a videoboard that didn’t work thanks to a blown transformer that knocked out all but four emergency lights in their locker room. They turned it over three times, with LenDale White losing his first fumble this season, and they had a season-high 13 penalties for 131 yards. Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth said he didn’t even notice the power even after dressing in near darkness. “I thought they were trying to get the mood right,” he said. Cleveland (4-9) lost its third straight and fifth in six games, with the Browns starting a third different quarterback in as many games. It was Ken Dorsey’s first start since Nov. 27, 2005, when he was with the 49ers, and he didn’t get much help from an injurydecimated team whose top receiver, tight end Kellen Winslow, was out with a sprained ankle. Tennessee didn’t make nearly enough mistakes to help the Browns, who haven’t scored an offensive touchdown in three straight games and couldn’t add to the 6-0 lead Phil Dawson gave them after the first quarter. Coach Romeo Crennel, whose job status grows shakier with each loss, defended his team for still fighting. “The Titans are a very good football team, and I think they showed why they are today. We came down here and had some turnovers and had opportunities to try and get a little bit done. We weren’t able to get enough done,” Crennel said. The Titans outgained Cleveland 390-178, intercepted Dorsey once and sacked him another time. White just missed joining Johnson with a 100-yard rushing game for a second straight week when he was stopped for a 1-yard loss on fourth-and-2. He finished with 99 yards on 24 carries. Tennessee took the lead for good within the opening minute of the second quarter. On fourthand-1, Collins found Ahmard Hall with a short pass the fullback took up the left sideline for a 28-yard TD and a 7-6 lead. Collins added a 9-yard TD pass to Justin Gage in the third quart e r. Dorsey started because the Browns have lost both Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson. Dorsey hadn’t completed a pass in three years in an NFL game, and he started well enough, connecting with Braylon Edwards on the first two attempts. He wound up 22-of-43 as the Titans pressured him early and hit him often. The Browns also tried running Joshua Cribbs from the quarterback spot. He finally got to throw in the fourth period, trailing 28-9, and Edwards just missed getting a second foot down for what would have been their longest completion. “We’re not last year’s team,” Cribbs said. “We have a different football team. We have to play better football.” Tennessee finally got it together late in the first quarter in a 68-yard drive capped by the TD to Hall. Pinned at their 7, the Titans put together their longest scoring drive this season by moving 93 yards in 10 plays, with White running in from the 3 for his 14th touchdown this season for a 14-6 lead just before halftime. During the drive, Johnson joined Hall of Famer Earl Campbell and Eddie George as the only rookies in franchise history to rush for 1,000 yards, and he topped that mark with a 15-yarder on only his ninth carry. NOTES: White tied George for the second-highest single-season total in team history. ... The Titans snapped a three-game skid in this series with their former AFC Central rival. ... With his first two field goals, Dawson reached 28 made this season for a career high and added a 39-yarder in the fourth quarter. He missed a 44-yarder wide right in the third quarter. ... Cleveland’s injury list grew with linebacker Shantee Orr hurting a knee and running back Jerome Harrison hurt his ribs.