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Titans' Big Plays The Difference As Bengals Lose, 27-3

LB Logan Wilson goes against RB Derrick Henry during the Bengals-Titans game in Week 4 of the 2023 season on Sunday, October 1, 2023.
LB Logan Wilson goes against RB Derrick Henry during the Bengals-Titans game in Week 4 of the 2023 season on Sunday, October 1, 2023.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Bengals went into Sunday's game looking to win a roughhouse AFC North game against the AFC South Titans. Instead, Tennessee quarterback Ryan Tannehill and running back Derrick Henry unveiled a staggering amount of big plays and the Bengals offense couldn't counter in a 27-3 loss at steamy Nissan Stadium.

With the Titans racking up 400 yards, their defense was able to tee off on Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow as he tried to manage his strained right calf. After Burrow hit his first four passes for 46 yards to lead the Bengals on an 11-play drive for a field goal on the game's first series, the Titans unleashed a bevy of pressures to rule the day. Tennessee didn't worry about the deep ball. The Bengals' longest play came on that drive, a 17-yard screen pass to wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase, their leader with seven catches for 73 yards on the day. Burrow added another 17-yarder to wide receiver Trenton Irwin in the fourth quarter.

Under the pressure, Burrow finished 20 of 30 for 165 yards. He got sacked three times, the second of which came late in the third quarter when linebacker Trevis Gipson came off the left edge around left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and forced the Bengals' first fumble and first lost fumble of the season. The Bengals followed their opening field goal with four punts and that fumble.

Down 27-3, safety Dax Hill's second interception of the season with about 10 minutes left set up the Bengals' next best drive of the day as Burrow hung in there. He converted their first third down of the game with 8:46 left but a sack and then a tackle on a scramble on fourth down ended the drive as the Bengals finished two of nine on third down.

Burrow didn't have wide receiver Tee Higgins (ribs) for the second half, when cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt was being evaluated for a possible concussion.

Tannehill (18 of 25 for 240 yards) and Henry (a 122-yard day with 34 coming on the last drive as the Titans ran out the clock to end the game) had their way with the Bengals defense all day.

The Bengals allowed six plays of at least 22 yards in a stunning seven-minute span of the second quarter to fuel the Titans' three straight touchdowns and a 24-3 halftime lead. In the same stretch the Bengals could come up with only 21 yards and two punts. With the pass rush able to tee off, Burrow finished the half nine of 17 for 77 yards.

It all began in a 3-3 game on the snap after Bengals rookie edger Myles Murphy secured his first NFL sack. On third-and-seven, Titans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins pulled a hesitation double move on Taylor-Britt down the left sideline for 38 yards. On the next play Tannehill went play-action for 24 yards down the seam to rookie tight end Josh Whyle as the Cincinnati prep product made his first NFL catch. Then on the next play Tannehill rolled to the right and found wide receiver Nick Westbrook-Ikine leaking out in the flat for a 13-yard touchdown.

On the next drive Titans scatback Tyjae Spears turned a fumble into a 26-yard run on what amounted to a reverse. After Westbrook-Ikine was wide open down the middle for 22 yards, Henry bulled to a vintage 29-yard touchdown run. After safety Dax Hill overran him, Henry shed linebacker Germaine Pratt and then ran away from him down the left sideline to make it 17-3.

Then the Bengals tried for a big play of their own, but Burrow's third-down pass down the seam to slot receiver Tyler Boyd didn't connect as Boyd barely got one hand on it over his head.

But the Titans didn't run out the first half clock. Not after Henry rattled to his right for 16 yards. Titans head coach Mike Vrabel decided to go for it. Tannehill went after Taylor-Britt again and vet wide receiver Chris Moore via the University of Cincinnati got behind him for 44 yards.

Then another theme of the day began to develop. Penalties wiping out the Bengals' big defensive plays. Nose tackle DJ Reader's red zone sack was negated by Pratt's hold. That allowed Henry's jump pass off a shotgun snap for a two-yard touchdown with Tannehill and the massive Jeffery Simmons split out. The TD ball with 10 seconds left in the half went to Whyle, Sunday's other University of Cincinnati villain. The Bengals were giving up an average of six plays of at least 15 yards per game. Tennessee had seven plays of least 16 yards in the second quarter.

The Bengals did what they did Monday night. Won the toss, took the ball, and were rewarded with a field-goal try. This one they made because it was a 21-yard chip shot for Evan McPherson six minutes into the game. Running back Joe Mixon carried it four times for 26 yards in the drive and ended up with 67 yards on 14 carries.