Posted: 1:40 a.m.
This when you know it's not going your way.
If Titans head coach Jeff Fisher could have, he would have left the field at halftime with his backup quarterback and Paul Brown Stadium's 40 mile-per-hour winds with a 7-7 tie right after the Bengals tied the game with 3:16 left.
He couldn't, so he was content to run the ball. And run it. And run it. And when rookie running back Chris Johnson broke a draw up the middle for 51 yards past the dive of free safety Chinedum Ndukwe with 1:02 left, the Titans had unwittingly grabbed momentum.
It was almost like Kerry Collins' 11-yard touchdown pass to Justin Gage 34 seconds later was expected.
Ndukwe"I think it had an affect. If they don't score before the half ... ." Ndukwe said. "Obviously I gave up the big play with the big run. I have to try to make that play the next time. Overall I felt pretty good. I have to get down and make that play. That's what I get paid to do."
Ndukwe took all 63 snaps in his first game action since injuring his knee about a month ago and held up with six tackles and one pass defensed. But the one tackle he didn't get had head coach Marvin Lewis steaming. And not just at Ndukwe.
"I think everybody, maybe other than the 11 guys on the field, knew they were going to run a draw because they didn't want to give us the ball back," Lewis said. "It was going to be a running play because of the timeout situation. They had the lead; they were getting the ball coming out after halftime, so they were probably going to play a little more conservatively. So, as I said already, we have to play smarter. Then we missed the tackle, which could have made it still third-down-and-three or four. At that point, we ended up giving up not three points, but seven points before halftime."
The Bengals defense found itself what-iffing two more plays.
Last Sunday it had been two long runs for touchdowns off a double reverse and a busted reverse. This Sunday it was two big runs that didn't go for touchdowns but swung the precious field position on a day giving up field position was as good as a turnover.
The snap after Kyle Larson's 43-yard punt put the Titans on their 8 with 2:38 left in a game the Bengals trailed, 17-7, running LenDale White busted a 17-yard gain over the Bengals right side. Out from under the goal posts, Tennessee ended up punting and Craig Hentrich whistled a 70-yarder that put the Bengals on their 2. Less than two minutes later it turned into Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck's blocked punt in the end zone for a touchdown.
"We stopped the run, but then we had the boneheaded play before halftime, and the play later in the third quarter where they got field position and their punter puts it down on the two- or three-yard line," Lewis said. "Those are the kind of plays we have to ultimately stop."
Game. Set. Match.
After Johnson had seven yards on his first six carries and the Titans had 60 on their first 14, they finished with 109 and 177 rushing yards, respectively, and the Bengals have now allowed 406 on the ground to open the season.
"Consistency," Ndukwe said. "We have to have it. We have to keep playing for all 60 minutes. You can't take any plays off, myself included. I could have done a lot of things differently."
"On the defensive side you've got to think it would have benefited us a little bit more than it did," Ndukwe said of the wind. "They pounded the ball at us. We stepped up and played the run pretty solid for the most part. That big play I gave up and here and there were probably the big difference in the game."
Middle linebacker Dhani Jones led all tacklers with 10 and all Bengals with this observation:
"One play doesn't beat you," Jones said. "You have to be able to counteract that play and we didn't come up with it."
Even though the tape won't lie, Ndukwe said, he's excited about coming in Monday to watch film and prepare for the Super Bowl champion Giants.
"It's kind of ironic that they started 0-2 last year and they made the run in the playoffs," Ndukwe said.
And the Bengals started like the Giants did with a loss on the road and a loss at home before going on the road for their first win of the year.
But the irony of the day belonged to Fisher. On the snap before Johnson's 51-yarder, right guard Jake Scott moved for a false start.
"It was the first false start where I can almost thank a player, because we had a different play called," Fisher said. "So we ran the draw and got a big play."
Just like the busted reverse last week for a touchdown, and it shows that good teams make the best out of the worst.
"That was a huge play," Fisher said. "The way Carson Palmer is (with less than two minutes left on the clock), you don't want to give them the ball back. We were just going to be patient."