Tennessee Titans (7-4) – Cincinnati Bengals (7-4): 16-20
The Bengals have built their success on three pillars. Despite the wanderings of the attack and the special teams which produced 9 very handicapping penalties, the defense – and above all a very large front seven – almost completely succeeded in its bet to contain Derrick Henry, by challenging Ryan Tannehill to beat him in the tunes. What the Tennessee quarterback wasn’t able to do, making the Titans offense pretty one-dimensional.
Then Cincinnati could count on its second knives. Joe Mixon and Ja’Marr Chase absent, it was Samaje Perine, Tee Higgins, and Hayden Hurst who carried the Tigers’ efforts. Success took a long time to emerge, but the Ohio offense got the job done in the final quarter to earn a win that will count in playoff qualifying.
Finally, the Bengals have found a powerful foot game on which they could count. Evan McPherson did not shake and released a perfect match in a configuration where all the points were precious.
For the Titans the defeat is bitter. Losing at home against a team that they could well meet again next January, the conclusion of the match is ambivalent: the defense is evolving at a high level when the attack is nothing without its star running back. Mike Vrabel’s men will have to find solutions if they want to be able to go far in the months to come.
Penalties and defense
At the start of the game, the two formations exchange clearances, mainly because of numerous penalties which shorten the progress and place the teams in a bad position. The defenses put their hands on the game. The player who mainly shines in the first quarter is DJ Reader on the tiger line, who beats two balls and sits the good first curtain of Cincinnati.
Orphans of Ja’Marr Chase and Joe Mixon the Bengals are struggling to install a consistent offensive game. The Tigers insist heavily on the pass to compensate for their shortcomings, but play short and small arms, which prevents them from really progressing. And especially the penalties kill any offensive desire. Opposite, the Titans seem Derrick Henry (38 yards on the ground, 79 yards receiving) dependent, on the verge of being one-dimensional given the imprecision of Ryan Tannehill (22/34, 291 yards). 0-0 at the change of sides.
Tennessee knocks on the door from the red zone early in the second quarter. But the Titans offensive squad only brought in 3 points, Tannehill failing to adjust his shots and the tiger line closing the middle of the field. However, the match is unlocked. In response to the opener, the Bengals decide to play more balanced and vertical by calling on Samaje Perine (58 yards, 1 TD on the ground, 35 yards in the air) and Hayden Hurst (57 yards) and manage to equalize by Evan McPherson (2/2 FG, 2/2 XP). The match ignites when Henry pierces the whole field on a small screen pass, but loses the leather one length from the paint. Fortunately for the Titans, the ball is covered by Treylon Burks (70 yards) in the in-goal for the first touchdown of the game. The party is launched. Despite the Titans’ good line, Cincinnati came back to score thanks to Perine’s legs, which made up for Mixon’s absence. There are then a few seconds left before returning to the locker room. The Bengals decide to play preventive and let the Titans nibble the field and the clock. Without consequence despite everything, since the defense resists on the line and the field goal attempt by Caleb Shudak (3/4 FG, 1/1 XP) passes to the right of the posts. 10-10 at the whistle.
A final that is played at the whistle
At the start of the second period, the Bengals continue on the same basis. The defense manages to hold the Tennessee offense, but repeated penalties and uninspired play calls abort the drives. The Tigers, however, manage to extricate themselves in the lead of the third quarter time thanks to a field goal, just to see Tannehill alert Treylon Burks for 51 yards and recover a penalty at the same time… Again the defense limits the Titans to 3 points, but the alert was hot.
The two clubs start the last round tied 13-13. The tigers strike first. Cincinnati builds and makes no mistakes, Joe Burrow (22/37, 270 yards, 1 TD) connects with Tee Higgins (114 yards, 1 TD) in the paint, and the Bengals take a touchdown lead. The reaction of Tennessee is sluggish, Henry is completely contained, but the Titans snatch 3 points to keep their hopes alive in the last minutes. This is where Cincinnati comes in to make the difference. Intelligent progress and clock management allows tigers to enter red zone. They will be helped by a twist of fate. Despite a defensive stop to concede only 3 points, a personal foul from the Titans restored possession to Cincinnati a few yards from the paint with a handful of seconds remaining in the game. The Bengals have nothing to do, three knees are on the ground, and the Ohio Tigers are needed to remain a contender in the race for the AFC playoffs.
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