Bengals outlast Titans in potential playoff preview

Cincinnati emerges victorious despite Ja’Marr Chase and Joe Mixon’s absences

By Pat Gainor, Staff Writer

Despite Joe Mixon and Ja’Marr Chase being on the injured list, the Cincinnati Bengals defeated the Tennessee Titans in Nashville with a grueling 20-16 win. 

Sunday was the official rematch between the two teams after their clash in the AFC Divisional Round last year, in which the Bengals squeaked out a 19-16 win off a game winning field goal. Much like in January, the game was an extremely physical, low-scoring slugfest full of punts, three-and-outs and clutch late-game scoring.

Both teams struggled to get their offenses going early, with each team’s first two drives ending in punts. 

After trading field goals heading into the second, Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill tossed a screen pass to superstar running back Derrick Henry. Henry looked to take it to the house, but despite a spectacular forced fumble by cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt at the five-yard-line, Tennessee’s Treylon Burks would recover in the end zone to give the Titans a 10-3 lead.

After another exchange of failed drives, Burrow and the offense got back in the saddle, as the Bengals led a 92-yard drive that would end with a rushing touchdown by Samaje Perine, filling in for Mixon. Perine has scored four touchdowns in the last two weeks as the starting running back and has surpassed his career high in scores with five on the year.

“Yeah, I mean it’s always fun to get in a rhythm and make some stuff happen,” Perine said after the game. “But (I) just went out there and did what I could.”

Both teams couldn’t get much else going as the game headed into the fourth quarter with the score knotted at 13-13. 

Heading into the fourth, the Bengals finally broke through the Titans defense with a 27-yard touchdown pass to receiver Tee Higgins to take a 20-13 lead. Higgins, substituting in the first receiver slot for Chase, netted 114 yards as he surpassed 100 yards for the second straight game.

The Titans drove down the field and knocked in a field goal to cut the lead to four. They seemed to be getting one more chance to take a shot at the end zone as Evan McPherson set up to kick a field goal with just under two minutes left. 

However, Tennessee lineman Kevin Strong was flagged for unnecessary roughness against the long snapper, giving the Bengals the first down and allowing Burrow to kneel out the game for a win.

Burrow has now thrown for more than 200 yards in nine consecutive starts, dating back to the Week 2 loss against the Cowboys. He went 22/37 for 270 yards and a touchdown. Burrow is currently on pace to break 4,000 yards for the second consecutive season.

“It was great to get a win like this,” Burrow said after the game. 

“This is kind of like how they all were down the stretch last year. Maybe we left a lot on the field on offense, defense stepped up and made the plays in the fourth quarter to go win the game,” he continued. 

The Bengals have now won five of their last six games and are tied with Baltimore for the AFC East lead at 7-4, giving them a shot at the division title. 

Next Sunday is one of the most important games of the year, as Cincinnati hosts the Kansas City Chiefs at Paycor Stadium.

NFL Corner

Bills 28, Lions 25: They say a win is a win, but the once-thought-unstoppable Bills continued to look shaky as they narrowly escaped from Ford Field with a win. Josh Allen threw another red zone interception, and Buffalo just couldn’t get going against a defense in the bottom five of the league. The Lions kicked a field goal to tie with under a minute to go, but a 36-yard pass to Stefon Diggs allowed Tyler Bass to kick in the game-winning score.

Patriots 26, Vikings 33: It seems the classic Minnesota late season collapse will have to wait another day. Just a week ago, the 8-1 Vikings were humiliated in a 40-3 blowout on their home stadium against Dallas. This past Thursday, though, they managed to get back on track with a solid win in primetime. Justin Jefferson caught nine passes for 139 yards, and he and Tyreek Hill are tied for the most yards by a receiver this season.

Bears 10, Jets 31: After controversial comments about his performance led to the Jets benching Zach Wilson, the legendary sensation Mike White, who rose to fame after throwing for 400 yards against the Bengals in his first start last year, was once again put in the driver’s seat. He did not disappoint as he threw for 315 yards, three touchdowns and achieved a passer rating of 149.3. Who knows? With a 7-4 record and a rejuvenated offense, anything is possible with White leading the Jets.

Ravens 27, Jaguars 28: Records don’t matter. Anything is possible in the fourth quarter if you’re playing the Ravens. The Jaguars, down two scores with six minutes left in the game, fought back to take a late lead — notably thanks to an impressive touchdown drive in the final two minutes. The Ravens took a gamble with Justin Tucker, who hit a record-breaking 66-yard field goal a year ago, but his kick was just short. Turns out he is human.