NASHVILLE - The AFC South title belongs to the Tennessee Titans for the first time since 2002 in what they hope is the first of many goals reached this season.
Kerry Collins threw for two touchdowns, and Chris Johnson ran for 136 yards and a score as the Titans routed the Cleveland Browns, 28-9, yesterday, clinching a second consecutive playoff berth with the franchise's best record through 13 games, 12-1.
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 injury-decimated team whose top receiver, tight end Kellen Winslow, was out with a sprained ankle.
The Titans have won 15 of their last 16 games. They maintained at least a two-game lead with three to play for home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs, and they celebrated by dumping a cooler of Gatorade on coach Jeff Fisher with a minute left in the game.
The Titans turned the ball over three times, with LenDale White losing his first fumble this season, and they had a season-high 12 penalties for 126 yards. It wasn't nearly enough mistakes to help the Browns, who now 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.
The Titans outgained Cleveland by 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: He finished with 99 yards on 24 carries.
Tennessee took the lead for good within the opening minute of the second quarter as Collins found Ahmard Hall on fourth and 1 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 quarter.
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 completing just 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, trailing by 28-9 and Edwards just missed getting a second foot down for what would have been Cleveland's longest completion.
Of note. Johnson joined Hall of Famer Earl Campbell and former Abington star Eddie George as the only rookies in Titans franchise history to rush for 1,000 yards.