The Cincinnati Bengals must have gotten sidetracked by the time change as their first half effort enabled the Tennessee Titans to jump out to a 10 point lead. They woke up at half time though and dominated the home team in the second half on the way to a 24-17 victory, running their record to 6-2.
The first quarter of play saw the two teams trade punts. Only the Titans managed to score on a 43 yard Rob Bironas field goal following a pair of Chris Johnson big plays. The first quarter finished with the Titans still clinging to a 3-0 scored.
The Bengals opened the second quarter with an impressive 69 yard touchdown drive. Donald Lee, once again subbing for Jermaine Gresham was the key target, picking up two huge first downs on passes from Andy Dalton. It was his backup, however, rookie TE Colin Cochart who got the touchdown on a play action rollout from Dalton on third and goal from the one. Mike Nugent's extra point gave the Bengals their first lead of the game.
The Titans got their own tight ends involved on their next drive. After Chris Johnson once again got to the edge and took the ball into Bengals territory, Thomas Howard was called for pass interference on TE Jared Cook. Matt Hasselbeck then found Craig Stevens over the middle to get the ball in the red zone. After the Bengals held on third down, the Titans elected to go for it on fourth and two at the twelve. He found Lavelle Hawkins on a button hook to convert inside the ten. The Titans cashed in when Hasselbeck found Damien Williams who made an acrobatic catch in the back of the end zone to put Tennessee back on top 10-7.
Hasselbeck and Jared Cook continued to hook up as the Titans moved into Bengal territory inside two minutes left in the half. Two more completions to Cook took it down to the 31. A screen pass to Javon Ringer on a third and nine netted another first down to the Bengals 17. On second down, Hasselbeck found Lavelle Hawkins wide open in the corner of the end zone with eight seconds left in the half. The TD gave the Titans a commanding 17-7 halftime lead.
The first half saw Chris Johnson get untracked, gaining 55 yards on eight carries. Matt Hasselbeck lit up the Bengals secondary completing 14 of 21 passes for 166 yards and two touchdowns. The Bengals defense allowed Tennessee 233 yards in a half, nearly what they had been averaging giving up in a game.
That's when the lights came on for the Cincinnati defense. The offense would follow soon after.
Following a three and out to open the second half, Kevin Huber's punt traveled only 29 yards allowing the Titans to begin their opening drive at the Bengals 49. The Bengals defense came up with a big three and out though, forcing Tennessee to punt.
The two teams exchanged punts and then the Bengals hit a big one. Andy Dalton through deep for AJ Green who was interfered with by Tennessee DB Jason McCourty giving the Bengals the ball at the Titans 20. On third and five from the fifteen, Dalton found Jerome Simpson at the goal line. Simpson, who had dropped two balls earlier this time absorbed two hits and held on for the score, bringing the Bengals with three at 17-14.
After a Carlos Dunlap sack forced the Titans to punt, the Bengals offense went to work again, this time with Cedric Benson. Two big runs and a swing pass took the ball into Titans territory as the third quarter expired.
Andy Dalton sneaked for a first down and then found AJ Green on the sideline to the Tennessee 19. After an Andre Smith holding call, Dalton found Green again with a laser strike down to the Titans seven. Green somehow held on while two Titan defenders knocked each other out. From there, Dalton would thread the needle to Andre Caldwell from five yards out on third down to put the Bengals back on top 21-17. The drive took 13 plays spanning 75 yards and ate up nearly eight minutes of clock.
The Titans who had been held to eight yards in the third quarter got the ball back in Chris Johnson's hands, first on a a screen pass, then as a wideout. The Bengals defense held though, forcing a Hasselbeck scramble which came up short.
The Bengals came out and went to work on the clock with Cedric Benson, Bernard Scott, and Brian Leonard teaming up for a couple of first downs. They couldn't sustain it and punted after running three minutes more off the clock. Kevin Huber's punt kicked off a Titan's foot, but was recovered on their 21. The Bengals put major pressure on Hasselbeck, forcing another three and out. The Bengals took over with 4:29 left on their own 36 looking to finish off the Titans. They could not, but did force Tennessee to use up their remaining time outs.
The Bengals took away the drama on the first play when Nate Clements both stripped the tight end, Jared Cook, and recovered the fumble on the Tennessee 21. Three Cedric Benson runs failed to net a first down, but did bring a Mike Nugent field goal, putting the Bengals up 24-17 with 1:55 left. The Titans were unable to get into the end zone with time expiring after Lavelle Hawkins was brought down at the Bengals 37.
Whatever adjustments Mike Zimmer made at the half worked. Tennessee ended up with 328 yards of total offense, but the Bengals had held them to only 44 in the second half prior to the last drive where Cincinnati played a soft zone.
The offense was efficient as well. Andy Dalton threw for 217 yards and his first NFL three touchdown performance. Six different Cincinnati receivers caught multiple passes. Cedric Benson and Bernard Scott combined for 102 yards on the ground.
This puts the Bengals in a tie with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the AFC North, pending the outcome of their game tonight with the Ravens. The Steelers will come into a sold out Paul Brown Stadium next Sunday for what will be the first of five AFC North contests in the final eight games for Cincinnati.
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