By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) — Matt Hasselbeck's fresh start in Tennessee has the Titans off to an unexpected one.
The 13-year veteran quarterback, who left Seattle as a free agent after a playoff-filled decade, threw three touchdown passes in the first half and safety Jordan Babineaux returned an interception 97 yards for a TD as the Titans thumped the Cleveland Browns 31-13 on Sunday for their third straight win under first-year coach Mike Munchak.
Hasselbeck picked apart Cleveland's secondary in the opening half, throwing for 194 yards while helping the Titans (3-1) build a 21-6 lead.
The 36-year-old Hasselbeck finished 10 of 20 for 220 yards - 26 on just two completions after halftime.
The Titans were playing with heavy hearts. On Saturday, they learned that Mike Heimerdinger, their beloved former offensive coordinator known as ''Dinger'' died of cancer at 58. Heimerdinger died while in Mexico to receive experimental treatments for a rare form of the disease.
Heimerdinger and Munchak spent several seasons together on former Titans coach Jeff Fisher's staff.
Tennessee's Chris Johnson rushed for 101 yards, three more than his total in three games.
The Browns (2-2) didn't build momentum following a comeback win last week over Miami, and they enter their bye with renewed problems. Cornerback Joe Haden, arguably Cleveland's best player, injured his left knee.
Colt McCoy went 40 of 61 for 350 yards and one TD against the league's No. 1-ranked defense, which sacked him three times and chased Cleveland's QB all afternoon. But as he tried to rally Cleveland in the second half, McCoy forced a pass that was picked and taken all the way back by Babineaux.
McCoy set club records for completions and attempts.
Cleveland's defense thought it might have an advantage against Hasselbeck because of his relationship with Browns president Mike Holmgren, who first had the QB in Green Bay and then traded for him with the Seahawks. But if the Browns learned something from their boss this week about Hasselbeck, they didn't apply it.
Playing without injured wide receiver Kenny Britt, Hasselbeck threw a 12-yard TD pass to tight end Craig Stevens, hooked up with tight end Jared Cook on an 80-yarder and lobbed a 4-yard score to Damian Williams - all before half, and all but ending Cleveland's chance to go 3-1 for the first time since 2001.
After the Browns pulled within 7-6 on Phil Dawson's 51-yard field goal, Hasselbeck needed just 18 seconds to put the Titans back in command.
Cook got behind linebacker Scott Fujita, caught a short pass from Hasselbeck and took off up the left sideline. With Fujita in pursuit, Cook stayed in bounds after a weak attempt by safety Usama Young to tackle him and went the distance, putting Tennessee ahead 14-6 early in the second quarter.
The Browns couldn't get anything going, and sensing his team needed a spark, coach Pat Shurmur went for a fourth-and-1 near midfield. But Titans safety Michael Griffin made a nice, open-field tackle on Armond Smith to give it back to Tennessee.
Later in the half, Hasselbeck found Nate Washington for 57 yards against more blown coverage by the Browns' secondary. On first down, Hasselbeck then lofted his third TD to a diving Williams in the corner.
Rob Bironas' 39-yard field goal gave the Titans a 24-6 lead in the third, and McCoy had little choice to take some risks. One backfired badly.
At Tennessee's 29, he scrambled to buy time but threw toward the end zone. Babineaux was waiting, picked it off and made his way down field for the fourth-longest interception return in franchise history.
McCoy later threw a 10-yard TD pass to Ben Watson.
Dawson kicked field goals of 51 and 48 yards for Cleveland.
Notes: Titans LB Will Witherspoon was injured, but walked off the field under his own power in the fourth. ... Titans safety Chris Hope injured his forearm in the first quarter and did not return. He was questionable this week with a shoulder injury. ... Tim Couch had Cleveland's previous completion mark, 36 against Tennessee in 2002. Brian Sipe attempted 57 passes against San Diego in 1981. ... Cleveland quarterbacks have attempted at least 50 passes in a game six times, four of them against Houston/Tennessee. ... The officiating crew worked short-handed most of the game after umpire Ruben Fowler left with a leg injury early in the game.
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