Bengals win 5th straight, down Titans 24-17
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)
The Cincinnati Bengals may just be too young to know better.
However, they are old enough to understand how much they like winning.
''We are young, and we are hungry,'' Bengals rookie receiver A.J. Green said. ''We are going to fight for each other until the last minute of the fourth quarter.''
This time, the Bengals rallied from 10 points down at halftime, and rookie Andy Dalton wound up throwing touchdown passes to three different receivers as Cincinnati came back and beat the Tennessee Titans 24-17 on Sunday.
The Bengals (6-2) now have won five straight games for their longest winning streak since 1988 when this franchise reached their second Super Bowl. This is the team that had been 6-2 only twice since 1988, and Cincinnati won the AFC north in 2005 and 2009 for its only winning records in the past 20 years.
Now they hit the midway point tied with Baltimore, a 23-20 winner over Pittsburgh on Sunday night, atop the division with the AFC's best record. The toughest part of the schedule is next with Pittsburgh visiting followed by a trip to Baltimore, Cleveland at home, and then a road game at Pittsburgh to see exactly how good these Bengals might be.
''We're at where we want to be now, and that's in the thick of things in our division,'' said Green, who caught seven passes for 83 yards.
''We've got some division games coming up that are going to be tough, but I feel like this team right here is going to fight and compete in every game.''
Tennessee (4-4) now has lost three of four, two of three at home, and the Titans are looking for answers after failing to hold a double-digit lead at home in a game where they seemed to get Chris Johnson running. He had 110 yards from scrimmage, but the Titans managed only 8 yards of offense in the third quarter and held the ball only 4:38.
''When you're up by 10, there's no reason why you should lose a game,'' Titans defensive tackle Shaun Smith said. ''The change was we didn't play a complete game.''
Credit the Bengals for not being cowed by a loud crowd on the road where they now are 4-1 this season. Carlos Dunlap had two sacks and nearly scored the Bengals' fourth defensive TD in as many games before replay wiped it out. Nate Clements also stripped a ball for the game's only turnover with 3:49 left.
The Titans got the ball back with 1:55 left and one final chance. They wound up with two 10-second runoffs for an injury and a penalty, and Lavelle Hawkins was tackled at the Cincinnati 32 after a 30-yard gain without making a planned lateral to keep the play alive.
''We didn't make a play the whole second half, and then the defense took their turn and we couldn't make a stop,'' Titans coach Mike Munchak said.
But it was Dalton, the rookie quarterback from Texas Christian the Titans interviewed closely before the draft, who helped the Bengals convert eight of 16 third downs with big throw after throw. He threw for 217 yards with TDs to Colin Cochart, Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell in helping Cincinnati score 17 consecutive points.
''Our quarterback has done a nice job,'' Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. ''It was loud out there, louder than we expected. I think he's done a nice job of handling that. He doesn't get unnerved, he just keeps coming back and just playing.''
Dalton converted two third downs on a drive that ate up 6:55 in the second half. He ran for a first down on third-and-1, then he found Green for 20 yards on third-and-18 on a play where Titans safety Michael Griffin and cornerback Jason McCourty knocked each other down to the ground in an ugly collision that barely grazed the receiver.
''We just kind of got in a groove in the second half,'' Dalton said. ''We knew we needed to win the second half, and we were able to do it.''
Cedric Benson also ran 20 times for 78 yards in his return from a one-game suspension. Cincinnati held the ball for more than 32 minutes, even though Tennessee wound up with a 328-319 edge in total offense. Matt Hasselbeck also threw for more yards (272) than Dalton. It didn't matter as the Titans couldn't move the ball when it mattered most with Johnson held to only 9 yards rushing in the second half.
''We were able to box him in and shut him down,'' Bengals defensive tackle Domata Peko said. ''Then we just let the dogs loose man. Let the guys rush the passer. We were able to get Hasselbeck and get some strips and some turnovers. That's how you win games.''
NOTES: Dunlap said he thinks he had a cramp in his hamstring but that his leg would be evaluated. ... The Titans are 5-3 in this series since moving to Tennessee, but the Bengals have won two straight in Nashville. ... Titans DE Dave Ball had a concussion. Munchak said WR Nate Washington hurt his hip, and Hawkins dislocated a finger on his right hand before returning to the game.