Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy(notes) and Tennessee Titans signal-caller Matt Hasselbeck(notes) both led late-game scoring drives last week that lifted their clubs to a second straight victory.
McCoy, though, could benefit from the return of running back Peyton Hillis(notes) this week, while Hasselbeck will be searching for other targets with leading receiver Kenny Britt(notes) gone for the year.
The Browns try to head into the bye week with their first 3-1 start in a decade Sunday when the Titans attempt to end their six-game road losing streak.
Despite completing just 19 of 39 for 210 yards in Sunday’s 17-16 victory over Miami, McCoy was 9 for 13 for 75 yards on a game-winning, 13-play drive that ended with a 14-yard pass to Mohamed Massaquoi(notes) with 43 seconds left.
“Hang in there because you’re going to get your opportunities all the way to the final gun, and he (McCoy) found a way to lead us on a drive,” first-year Browns coach Pat Shurmur said following his first home win.
“Colt knows how to win games.”
So does Hasselbeck. The first-year Titan, who guided the Seattle Seahawks to six playoff appearances and Super Bowl XL, has Tennessee going for its first 3-1 start since opening 10-0 in 2008.
Hasselbeck is third in the league in completion percentage (69.6) and has thrown for 932 yards - eighth in the NFL - with five TDs with two INTs.
He celebrated his 36th birthday Sunday with a 311-yard passing game and two scores in a 17-14 victory over Denver. Hasselbeck guided a seven-play, 95-yard drive that culminated with Daniel Graham’s(notes) go-ahead four-yard TD reception with 4:24 remaining.
“A quarterback gets up in age and a team doesn’t think he has anything left in the tank, and now he’s proving them wrong, clearly,” Browns president Mike Holmgren, who coached Hasselbeck in Seattle, told the Browns’ official website. “He’s a really good player.”
Hasselbeck, though, won’t have Britt - the AFC leader after Week 2 with 271 receiving yards - to target for the remainder of 2011 after the third-year receiver suffered a torn ACL and MCL in his right knee Sunday.
“You just don’t make up for losing Kenny Britt and think one guy is going to come in and fill his shoes,” first-year Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “… A lot of guys just can’t do what he does. But I think as a group we can, and that’s how we have to look at it.”
The Titans (2-1) signed Donnie Avery(notes) to fill Britt’s roster spot, yet Damien Williams will likely start Sunday along with Nate Washington(notes), who is tied for third in the league with 21 receptions after catching a career-best eight for 92 yards and a TD on Sunday.
While Hasselbeck and the Titans’ seventh-ranked passing offense (300.7 yards per game) look for answers without Britt, the Browns’ offense could receive a huge boost if Hillis returns after missing a game with a severe case of strep throat.
“I’ve started feeling better the past couple days,” Hillis, the team leader with 151 rushing yards and two TDs, said Wednesday. “I’ve gained back a little of the weight I lost.”
Even if the bruising back returns, the Titans’ eighth-ranked rushing defense (89.0) should expect to see a number of carries from Montario Hardesty(notes), who ran for 67 yards on 14 carries Sunday in his first NFL start.
“I think having Montario get a chance to play in that game will help us, especially as we move forward,” McCoy said. “He’ll give Peyton some blows and it’s good. We’re excited about those two guys.”
The Titans can’t be thrilled with Chris Johnson’s start. After missing training camp with the team hammering out a $53 million extension with the fourth-year back, Johnson has just 98 yards on 46 carries.
Tennessee is averaging a league-worst 51.7 yards on the ground.
“We want him to have more carries than (13 on Sunday),” Munchak told the Titans’ official website. “We need to be more effective with those carries as a group, but I think ultimately you want to have him 20-plus carries if you could, that means things are going well and he has more opportunities to get going.”
These former AFC Central rivals last met Dec. 7, 2008, when the host Titans clinched the South title with a 28-9 victory.
The last time these teams played in Cleveland (2-1), the Browns won 20-14 on Nov. 6, 2005, to end a four-game home skid to the Titans franchise.
Tennessee lost 16-14 at Jacksonville in Week 1. The club’s last road win was over the Jaguars, 30-3 on Oct. 18.