NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans probably lose against just about any other NFL team with their performance Sunday, but they were facing the league's worst team, the Cleveland Browns, and found a way to survive with a 12-9 overtime victory.
The hero of the day was Titans safety Kevin Byard, whose three interceptions prevented the Browns from putting up any more points. The Titans managed only nine points in regulation, but Byard took advantage of overthrows and bad passes by DeShone Kizer and Cody Kessler. Tennessee's defense had a bend-but-don't-break effectiveness all day, and it was the engine for this win.
It was an otherwise flat performance by a team coming off a Monday night victory over the Colts. The offense looked stagnant and unable to gather much consistency. The Browns were missing their top two defensive backs due to injury, but the Titans' passing attack made them look like the second coming of Seattle's Legion of Boom.
It's rare for a win to leave more questions than answers, but this one did, including the long-term injury status of tight end Delanie Walker. Maybe the upcoming bye week will provide time to answer them.
When you win in the NFL, it's good," coach Mike Mularkey said. "I wish we were better. I think everybody does. But we needed that win."
Marcus Mariota took a step back from his great Week 6 performance and looked like a quarterback still limited by his hamstring. He missed Walker twice on near-touchdowns, and he didn't have has usual effectiveness in the red zone. He led the offense to four Ryan Succop field goals and finished 21-of-34 for 203 yards. The Titans had just 80 rushing yards, averaging 2.5 yards per carry.
"It just comes down to red zone," Mariota said. "When we get down to the red zone, we can't keep kicking field goals. We gotta score touchdowns." The Titans went 0-2 in the red zone.
What it means: Well, it means the Titans are a flawed 4-3 team that leads a flawed AFC South. There are many issues to work out, but this team is still in position to win the division and get better down the stretch. The potential is there, but better execution and game planning are needed for them to be a true contender.
What I liked: Byard looked like the best player on the field for either team. The Titans wasted his three interceptions, but Byard is becoming the ballhawk he was in college. He became the first Titans player since Keith Bulluck in 2007 to notch three interceptions in a game. Byard and the defense showed up with key plays when needed, and they are the reason the Titans moved to 4-3.
"One of my all-time legends is Ed Reed and I don't remember a game where Ed Reed had three picks," Byard said. "We were on the sidelines, everybody yelled 'hat trick, hat trick.'"
What I didn’t like: The Titans are so inconsistent, it's hard to tell if they're even a good team. First-half game planning and execution has been a season-long problem, and it reared its ugly head again Sunday. The Titans had six first-half points. The new problem is they didn't do better in the second half or overtime.
The Browns often loaded the box to limit the Titans' running attack, but the Titans didn't seem to have much of an answer. It was puzzling why play action wasn't more prevalent in the game plan after the success on Monday. That's on the coaching staff. Tennessee also went 5-of-17 on third down, typically representative of a losing day.
Fantasy fallout: All the attention going into the game was on DeMarco Murray's hamstring and how they would use him and Derrick Henry. Neither had great games for fantasy purposes, but Henry was a huge dud, with 24 total yards on 15 touches. Murray had just 76 yards combined on 21 touches.
Injury concern: The big worry is for Walker, who got his right ankle and foot caught awkwardly while a Browns defender attempted to tackle him after an overtime catch. It didn't look great. If the Titans have to go without Walker, their best receiving option, this struggling offense gets even worse.
What’s next: The Titans have a much-needed bye week. It will be used to get Mariota and Murray closer to 100 percent, and we should see the return of top pick Corey Davis, who has missed five games with a hamstring injury. Then the Titans have three games in two weeks against AFC North teams, beginning with a home date with the Baltimore Ravens.