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Bengals break fast into October

Now you've seen everything.

Quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver Mohamed Sanu switched roles on the last play of the first quarter Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium and it turned into Dalton's improbable 18-yard touchdown catch that sparked a 33-7 victory over the Titans before 56,743.

The businesslike Bengals punched the clock with another PBS rout to secure a franchise-best 11th straight home victory and went to 3-0 for the first time since 2006 while coming within 6:09 of their first home shutout since 1980. The Bengals drained the clock on the way into their bye week when they gobbled up 7:18 of the third quarter with an 80-yard drive that jacked the score to 26-0.

 After Dalton converted three third downs on the 14-play drive, two on quarterback sneaks and one on an 11-yard pass to Sanu on third-and-five, the Bengals made their physicality statement of the day when running back Giovani Bernard mashed in his second touchdown of the game from the 1 when he made a marvelous second-effort reach in mid-air after linebacker Michael Griffin had stopped him the first time with 1:58 left in the third quarter.

Dalton then went to the air on the next drive and after big throws to Sanu (44 yards on his first five catches), he hit wide receiver A.J. Green over the middle for 24 yards at the Tennessee 4. That put Green over the 100-yard mark (102 on six catches) for the second time in his two full games this season and 17th time in his career.

Green, who played just five snaps last week with a right big toe injury, limped off the field after the play but that happened a couple of times Sunday and he came back in. And Green said he was fine after the game and it had nothing to do with his toe. There was no reason to put him back in when rookie running back Jeremy Hill pulled off a second-effort touchdown run of his own from the 4 to make it 33-0 early in the fourth quarter.

That was Dalton's last drive of the day as he left to get ready for the Oct. 5 showdown with the Patriots in Foxboro, Mass., on Sunday Night Football. New England's Tom Brady is the only quarterback in the NFL who has more wins than Dalton's 33 since Dalton came into the league in 2011. On Sunday he went 15 of 23 for 169 yards and while he suffered his first interception of the season, he didn't get sacked to extend his streak to throwing 84 passes this season without a sack.

But this day was all about Dalton's TD catch and another vintage PBS performance by the exhaustive Bengals defense. Titans quarterback Jake Locker went through a miserable day. He finished 17 of 34 passing with a 41.9 passer rating. And in holding Tennessee to 2-for-12 on third down, the Bengals were successful on their last 10 third downs. They had two sacks with end Carlos Dunlap getting his third in as many games and rookie Darqueze Dennard getting his first one in the NFL on his second snap from scrimmage.

When Tennessee was called for holding on a punt in the end zone, the Bengals used it to take a 12-0 lead with 6:25 left in the first half. The Bengals defense and special teams made it happen since after punter Kevin Huber pinned the Titans on their 2, Tennessee went three-and-out when they dropped seven into coverage on third down Dunlap chased  Locker out of bounds at the Tennessee 4.

After Dalton's 29-yard pass to Green running down the right sideline put the Bengals on the Tennessee 18, he pitched to Sanu sweeping right. Sanu, now 4-for-4 with two TDs in his passing career and 174 yards, stopped and threw back the other way to Dalton leaking into the left flat. He probably shouldn't have thrown it because cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson was in position to intercept it for a pick 6. But Dalton screened him off to make the catch and he had green in front of him. He beat the last defender leaping inside the pylon, stood up, and raised both hands in almost disbelief.

It was the first time a Bengals quarterback ever caught a touchdown pass and only the fourth time a Bengals QB has caught a pass. Dalton joined Sam Wyche, Akili Smith, and Ryan Fitzpatrick.

It also overshadowed a brilliant opening quarter by Green, who left last week's game with a right big toe injury after five plays. He came out smoking, catching two balls for 26 yards and drawing a 13-yard pass interference penalty on their first drive that ended on Mike Nugent's 29-yard field goal that gave the Bengals a 3-0 lead with 4:48 left in the first quarter.

The Bengals lined up with six offensive linemen on the first snap, but instead of running it Dalton went for Green on the right sideline working on Jason McCourty, the Titans cornerback who came into the game questionable with a groin injury. Green leaped for the high throw and made a circus catch for a 15-yard gain. Then a few snaps later, with McCourty, giving a huge cushion, Green caught a quick pass on the left sideline for an 11-yard gain. A few plays later Wreh-Wilson was called for pass interference trying to cover Green to put the Bengals at the 18.

But this one started out like the previous two games, when the Bengals scored just two touchdowns in five red –zone trips. On third-and-three the Titans brought a double –barrelled blitz up the middle and when Dalton unloaded quickly to Sanu on a quick out to the right, they couldn't connect and Nugent came on to help the Bengals pad their NFL lead playing the most snaps with the lead.

Dalton solved the red-zone problem with historic catch and they tacked on another one with 3:29 left in the half. The defense handed it to him at the Titans 17 when safety George Iloka blew up Titans tight end Delanie Walker  over the middle and the ball bounced to defensive lineman Robert Geathers dropping into coverage for an interception.

The unfortunate Wilson found himself covering Green again and when he mauled him in the end zone on a fade, the pass interference penalty put the ball on the 1. Nose tackle Domata Peko promptly checked in at fullback, left guard Clint Boling pulled and Bernard followed them both to make it 19-0.

Green went into the half with four catches for 68 yards as Bengaldom heaved a sigh of relief. Bernard finished with 47 yards on 14 carries and Hill added 39 more on seven carries. it was only 3.7 yards per carry, but good enough to give Dalton more than seven yards per throw and make him 23-3 when they rush it at least 30 times after they went for 31 Sunday.

The Bengals defense pitched another PBS beauty and when they forced another punt with 50 seconds left in the half, the offense chose not to take a knee. Instead, it coughed up its first turnover of the season after 149 minutes. Dalton tried to run a screen, but when he got heat from Titans defensive end Jurrell Casey, he hurried it behind Bernard and Bernard tipped it forward to diving safety George Wilson. It was Dalton's first interception in 74 throws this season.

But the defense always seems to have an answer in this building. After Titans right tackle Michael Oher was called for unnecessary roughness to put the ball back on the Bengals 25, defensive tackle Geno Atkins chased Locker out of the pocket and as Locker came toward the right sideline, he came back to the middle of the field late. Waiting in the end zone with 16 seconds left in the half was Bengals safety Reggie Nelson, celebrating his 31st birthday with the Bengals' fifth interception of the season and his first.

The defense needed to rely on the third-down magic that had been so instrumental in the first 10 victories of this streak. After Locker burned them with a 29-yard ramble on third-and-eight when he ran through their blitz, he hooked up with Walker on a 23-yard catch over the middle on third-and-four on the opening drive of the day.

But cornerback Leon Hall ended the drive when on third-and 13 from the Bengals 23 he sniffed out a screen to wide receiver Kendall Wright and dropped him for a two-yard gain. That began a string of six straight successful third downs that ended the half, which countered a strong Tennessee running game that accounted for 95 yards on 17 carries at 5.6 yards per carry.

It was made even better when the Titans' Ryan Succop shoved a 40-yard field goal try wide right, the first of his two misses in the half. Locker had a 29.9 passer rating at the half on 10 of 18 for 91 yards with the two picks. The Bengals went into the second half gunning for their fourth straight home game with at least three interceptions.

PREGAME NOTES: As expected, Pro Bowl WIL linebacker Vontaze Burfict missed his first NFL game Sunday when the Bengals played the Titans at Paul Brown Stadium. Also as expected, Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green started a week after his right big toe injury limited him to the first five snaps in the victory over the Falcons.

After suffering two concussions in the first two games, Burfict rested on top of next week's bye and Vincent Rey made his fifth NFL start in his place. Five other injured players were also inactive, including two injured last week, right guard Kevin Zeitler (calf) and defensive tackle Brandon Thompson (knee).

Linebacker Sean Porter (hamstring) was inactive for the third straight game and cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris was inactive so the Bengals could go with extra linemen on both sides of the ball in the wake of injuries to Thompson and Zeitler.

Mike Pollak, who played the second half in place of Zeitler last week, got his 47th NFL start and sixth as Bengal.

The wind blew in as advertised at 20 miles-per-hour whipping out of the northwest toward the river with gusts expected to reach 30. The Bengals won the toss and deferred. The Titans chose to take the ball with their backs to the river.

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