October 1, 2023 – On Sunday, the Titans turned in a complete, and dominating, performance against the Bengals in a 27-3 win in front of a sun-baked crowd at Nissan Stadium.
The Titans scored 21 second-quarter points to open up a big lead and never looked back.
The Titans improved to 2-2 with the win, and they got their swagger back in the process.
“(The Bengals), they’ve been to the playoffs and the AFC Championship two out of the last three years,” cornerback Kristian Fulton said. “So we know, playing against a team like that, we see what our potential can be. … That’s a great team we just played.”
In the process, the Titans also exacted at least some measure of revenge for past losses to the Bengals.
“I would definitely say we owed them,” safety Kevin Byard said. “Obviously (for) the playoff game, and last year they beat us at home.”
Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill completed 18-of-25 passes for 240 yards and a touchdown in the contest.
Running back Derrick Henry ran for 122 yards on 22 carries and a touchdown. Henry also threw a touchdown pass in the game, which saw him pass Oilers legend Earl Campbell for second place in franchise history for rushing yards.
On defense, the Titans settled in and stifled the Bengals and quarterback Joe Burrow.
Burrow was harassed all day when his success was limited – he was sacked three times, and he threw for just 165 yards on a day when the Bengals managed just 14 first downs.
It was an all-around good day for the Titans.
“What we’re trying to do is play complementary football,” Titans Coach Mike Vrabel said. “Feed off of each other, fuel each other, have a level of speed and violence to our actions.”
The Bengals took an early 3-0 lead on a 21-yard field goal by kicker Evan McPherson.
But it was all Titans from that point on.
The Titans tied the game on a 53-yard field goal from kicker Nick Folk, which capped a 15-play, 40-yard drive.
Folk was perfect on the day, and he’s been perfect on the season through the first four weeks.
The Titans jumped ahead 10-3 on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Tannehill to receiver Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, which capped a beautiful five-play, 78-yard drive that featured big completions to DeAndre Hopkins and tight end Josh Whyle.
In a flash, the Titans were right back in the end zone on a 29-yard touchdown run by Henry. The four-play, 79-yard scoring drive featured a 22-yard run by rookie Tyjae Spears and another big completion to Westbrook-Ikhine.
The Titans kept the momentum going into halftime, scoring yet again on a two-yard touchdown pass from Henry to Whyle with just 10 seconds left in the half. Henry lined up in the Wildcat formation on the play, and after taking the snap he completed a jump-pass to Whyle in the end zone, sending Nissan Stadium into a frenzy.
“It was a lot of fun,” Tannehill said of the 21-point flurry, and all the big plays during the stretch. “We were efficient, and that was opening some plays up down the field for us. … It’s a good thing for the Titans when you are able to dial those things up.”
The Titans began the second half by taking 10:22 off the clock on a 15-play, 65-yard drive that was capped off by a 35-yard field goal by Folk.
The Titans kept swinging in this one, before knocking out the Bengals.
Now, they’ll turn their attention to their first AFC South division foe – the Titans return to action next Sunday against the Colts in Indianapolis.
“It felt good,” Henry said. “I felt like we were hitting on all cylinders, playing complementary football in all three phases. It was a great all-around team win.”