11-18-01, 1:30 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
It took the Titans just 17 seconds to swipe the home crowd intensity from the Bengals Sunday when Derrick Mason raced 101 yards with the opening kickoff Sunday as Tennessee leaped to 10-0 lead in the game's first 10 minutes at Paul Brown Stadium.
The Bengals' kick-off team, next to last in the AFC in allowing field position, let Mason field a low kick and roar up the right sideline untouched until he shook off kicker Neil Rackers.
Titans kicker Joe Nedney saved a touchdown on the next play when he dragged down the Bengals' Curtis Keaton at midfield. Instead of attempting a 49-yard field goal, Rackers tried a quick punt that rolled into the end zone. The Titans then overcame two holding calls when quarterback Steve McNair hit his first five passes for 63 yards to get Nedney's 40-yard field goal with about five minutes left in the first quarter. Bengals linebacker Takeo Spikes knocked down McNair's sixth pass to set up the field goal.
Even two hours before kickoff, Bengals rookie wide receiver Chad Johnson insisted he could play. But the Bengals, who were looking for more improvement from his broken left collarbone during practice this past week, decided to inactivate him for the fourth straight game.
With Johnson out and tight end Marco Battaglia shelved for the season after Saturday's appendectomy,