NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) First-year Cleveland coach Mike Pettine credits Brian Hoyer with helping the Browns make NFL history with the largest comeback ever by a road team.
Hoyer threw for 292 yards and a career-high tying three touchdowns, including the game-winner with 1:09 left, in rallying the Browns from a 25-point deficit to a 29-28 win Sunday over the Tennessee Titans for the biggest comeback in team history. The quarterback who was fighting off rookie Johnny Manziel for his job only weeks ago stayed cool even trailing 28-3.
”His poise was pivotal for us,” Pettine said. ”I think that calming influence in the huddle, he was never out of sorts.”
Hoyer finished off the comeback with two TDs to Travis Benjamin in the fourth quarter as the Browns (2-2) scored 16 points in the final 11:02.
Each game this season has been decided by three or fewer points for the Browns.
”I said when we broke it down, `Let’s just win one by two touchdowns one week and not give everybody a heart attack,”’ Hoyer said. ”It’s great to always win, but to win coming back and know that you battled your butt off is a great feeling.”
The Titans (1-4) now have lost four straight under first-year coach Ken Whisenhunt with this easily the most painful.
”We had the game,” Titans wide receiver Justin Hunter said. ”We should have finished and won. I’m at a loss for words. It’s definitely devastating. We had a lead like that and end up losing it like that.”
Here are some things to know about the Browns’ historic comeback and the Titans’ collapse:
RANKING COMEBACKS, COLLAPSES: Only two other clubs have come back from bigger deficits in the regular season. San Francisco rallied from 28 down in beating New Orleans on Dec. 7, 1980, and Buffalo trailed 26-0 before beating Indianapolis 37-35 on Sept. 21, 1997. The Browns topped the 1966 team that trailed the Giants by 20 before winning 49-40.
For the Titans, this was the biggest blown lead in franchise history in the regular season. Only blowing the 32-point lead to Buffalo on Jan. 3, 1993, in the playoffs as the Houston Oilers was worse.
HOYER’S STREAK: Hoyer finally was intercepted for the first time this season when Titans safety Michael Griffin picked him off with 4:55 left. That ended a streak of 189 consecutive pass attempts without an interception and was the third-longest streak in Browns’ history. Hoyer hadn’t been intercepted since the third quarter of his debut with Cleveland on Sept. 22, 2013, at Minnesota. Only Bernie Kosar and Milt Plum had longer streaks for the Browns.
TITANS’ INJURY LIST: This lost could have been much more costly to Tennessee than simply the record and pride. Quarterback Jake Locker missed the second half with an injured right thumb. Tennessee coach Ken Whisenhunt said safety Bernard Pollard, who left on crutches, may have hurt his right Achilles tendon. Cornerback Coty Sensabaugh hurt his right knee and tight end Craig Stevens missed almost the whole game with an injured thigh.
SHAKE IT OFF: Travis Benjamin nearly had Cleveland’s first turnover this season when he let the ball bounce off his chest and Titans rookie Marqueston Huff recovered. But officials erased Benjamin’s mistake, flagging Huff for failing to get back on the field quickly enough after being blocked out of bounds in the third quarter. Pettine said he grabbed Benjamin and told him to be ready to make a play.
”It is obvious that he lacks confidence in the punt return game,” Pettine said. ”For me, that is a microcosm of the team. … A guy that had something bad happened to him and he didn’t go in the tank. He bounced back and made two plays including the game winner.”
FOURTH-DOWN: Tate said he was surprised to see the Titans go for it on fourth down with less than a yard to go leading 28-22. Backup Charlie Whitehurst tried to sneak for Tennessee and was stopped before sliding to the right and landing with the ball outstretched. The whistle blew on his forward progress short of the marker. The Titans challenged and lost, giving the Browns the ball at the Tennessee 42 with 3:03 left.
”We thought he made it,” Whisenhunt said.
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