Bengals ride revved up defense to Nashville, tackle Titans

Bengals ride revved up defense to Nashville, tackle Titans

A win Monday helped Cincinnati feel healthier and avoid an 0-3 start, but it was defense that came through for the Bengals.

The Bengals (1-2) are coming off their first win of the season, beating the Los Angeles Rams, 19-16, and try to stack victories when they trek to Nashville to take on the Tennessee Titans (1-2) on Sunday.

Joe Burrow played through a strained right calf, completing 26-of-49 passes for 259 with one interception. And while he completed 12 passes to Ja’Marr Chase for 141 yards, it was the defense that led the way for the Bengals.

“I was going to feed my guy. He was due for one,” Burrow said of Chase, who had just 10 catches for 70 yards entering Week 3. “He showed up big for us. He showed why he’s one of the best.”

Trey Hendrickson had two of Cincinnati’s six sacks while Logan Wilson had two interceptions to help hold the Rams to 1-for-11 on third down and 1-for-4 in the red zone.

Though Burrow struggled o find his rhythm in the first half, he led a 10-play, 75-yard drive in the third quarter, capped off by a 14-yard TD run by Joe Mixon with 5:34 left in the third quarter. It marked the first Bengals lead of the season.

“That’s the whole key,” Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor said. “Our defense kept us right in this thing. One of 11 on third downs, the two interceptions, six sacks. That was outstanding.”

The Bengals have dominated the series of late, winning the past three meetings, including a 19-16 game in the AFC divisional round in 2021 when the Titans were the No. 1 seed and last year, 20-16. The Bengals have claimed five of the past six and seven of the past nine in the series.

One week after surviving Aaron Donald and the Rams, the Bengals face Jeffery Simmons and the Titans’ impressive defensive front.

“They’re really difficult. It feels like playing an AFC North team when you play these guys,” Taylor said. “I remember first feeling that in the playoffs a couple of years ago against them. Last year they had some injury challenges across the board on defense. This year they’re a lot healthier and it shows up on the tape.”

The Titans were embarrassed 27-3 Sunday in Cleveland, allowing five sacks and eight quarterback hits against the Browns. Myles Garrett had 3.5 sacks, dominating Tennessee starting left tackle Andre Dillard.

“We’ll continue to look and see what’s best and where guys go,” Titans head coach Mike Vrabel said of potential changes on the line. “But as it stands … I don’t see something changing until we have some more time to visit on it … and see who is available, see who is healthy.”

After defeating the Los Angeles Chargers in overtime at home in Week 2, the Titans took a step back against the Browns, who controlled possession for more than 38 minutes.

“When you play like that, you are going to lose,” Vrabel said. “So we have to realize why we lost, but also realize that you can define your culture by what you look like when things aren’t great, when things don’t go well.

“(Sunday) they didn’t go well, and we’ll find out what kind of football team we have this week, and what kind of individuals and what type of people that we have here, which I believe in.”

Titans running back Derrick Henry, with 8,498 career rushing yards, is 77 away from passing Earl Campbell (8,574) for second in franchise history. Eddie George (10,009) is atop the list.