The Cincinnati Bengals (2-5-1) came into their home matchup with the Tennessee Titans (5-2) as seven-point underdogs. They were widely expected to be blown out by the AFC South front-runners but flipped the script with a solid scheme that led to a 31-20 victory.
The Titans rolled into Cincinnati coming off a loss to another AFC North team in the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers, their first defeat of the season. The modus operandi seemed simple enough. Let Derrick Henry pound the ball against a suspect Bengals defensive front, and simply follow the road map other teams did on defense and blitz Joe Burrow. The latter was a particularly good idea, considering Cincinnati was down four of five offensive line starters for the game. The only problem was Mike Vrabel and company didn’t do it.
Instead, the patchwork offensive line for Cincinnati (which included new free-agent signee Quinton Spain, signed just two days prior) gave rookie quarterback Joe Burrow clean pockets often and opened huge holes for running back fill-in starter Giovani Bernard. Burrow finished with 249 yards and two touchdown lobs, while hitting seven different receivers. Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins, and Auden Tate all eclipsed 60 yards and Boyd found paydirt. For his part, Bernard had 78 yards from scrimmage and a pair of touchdowns.
Henry got his, carrying the ball 18 times for 112 yards (averaging 6.2 yards per carry), and added a rushing score. He was underutilized against a defensive line susceptible to a big back in the middle. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill completed18 passes on 30 attempts, totaling 233 yards and two touchdowns. He was picked off in the end zone on the team’s first drive by Bengals all-world safety Jessie Bates. Corey Davis showed out in the game, as A.J. Brown was blanketed often. Davis had eight catches on ten targets for 128 yards and one trip to pay dirt.
The Titans will host the Chicago Bears in Week 9, while Cincinnati has a week off before Burrow’s first meeting with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
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