Football

Tennessee waltz

CINCINNATI — The only break the Cincinnati Bengals were able to capitalize on Sunday was the wind.

A 21 mph wind, gusting up to 74 mph, carried away some of the sounds (Boo!) from a Paul Brown Stadium sellout crowd of 64,540.

The Tennessee Titans spoiled the Bengals' home opener with a 24-7 spanking. Cincinnati also lost a week earlier, 17-10 at Baltimore.

"After the way we played a week ago, to come back and have some of the same things kind of kick us in the butt a little bit — to be inconsistent on offense, to be inconsistent on defense and obviously, as well, special teams," Bengals Coach Marvin Lewis said. "We lost as a football team today. There was not one phase that played consistently well enough for 60 minutes."

The wind meant added emphasis on the ground game.

Tennessee (2-0) ran for 177 yards, including a 19-for-109 effort by Chris Johnson and 18-for-59 and a touchdown by LenDale White.

Cincinnati had roughly half that at 88 yards. Chris Perry had 21 carries for 64 yards, and the Bengals' only offensive touchdown through eight quarters, a 13-yard run on fourth-and-a-foot.

Carson Palmer and favorite targets Chad Ocho Cinco and T.J. Houshmandzadeh? Non-factors.

Palmer was 16-for-27 and 134 yards, with two interceptions and a 41.3 passer rating. Ocho Cinco — still "C. Johnson" on his uniform — had four catches for 37 yards, breaking Carl Pickens' team record of 93 consecutive games with a reception. Houshmandzadeh caught three balls for 26 yards.

Tight end Ben Utecht was lost because of a chest injury suffered during the first play from scrimmage.

"Us three guys — our two Pro Bowl receivers and myself — need to pick it up," Palmer said.

Tied 7-7, the Bengals called time with 1:21 left in the half, confident that the defense could get the Titans to kick. But Chris Johnson, with six carries for 7 yards to that point, took a draw play 51 yards to the Bengals' 20.

"That bonehead play before halftime," is how Lewis described the play.

"Everybody other than the 11 guys, maybe, on the field knew they were going to run a draw," Lewis said, noting that Tennessee was going into the wind and would receive the second-half kickoff. Not a typical time for Titans Coach Jeff Fisher to take chances.

"That was a huge play," Fisher said. "The way Carson Palmer is (in a two-minute drill), you don't want to give them the ball back. We were just going to be patient."

Moments later, Kerry Collins found Justin Gage for an 11-yard touchdown pass and a 14-7 halftime lead.

Collins, subbing for Vince Young, finished 14-for-21 and 128 yards.

The teams combined for five first-quarter punts.

Tennessee broke through on White's 1-yard TD run with 11:06 left in the half.

The Titans were aided by 15 yards when Kyries Hebert interfered with punt-returner Chris Carr. A play before White scored, an incompletion, the Bengals were caught with 12 men on the field.

The Bengals tied on Perry's run with 3:16 left.

Defense made it possible. Antwan Odom, a former Titan, forced a third-down fumble that lost 12 yards. Next play, Hebert deflected a punt, which carried 25 yards to the Cincinnati 37.

Hebert worked a shift with DeDe Dorsey and Corey Lynch "and made them pick their poison, and it was me."

A minute and a half into the third quarter, the Bengals caught another break. Titans punter Craig Hentrich was unable to handle a wind-blown knuckleball snap. Hebert fell on the ball at the Titans' 36.

After reaching the 14, another 12-man penalty set the Bengals back to the 19. Shayne Graham's 37-yard field-goal attempt deflected off the right upright.

Collins then went 5-for-5 to set up a 34-yard field goal by Louisville native Rob Bironas.

Tennessee's next possession ended with a Hentrich punt — 70 yards to the Cincinnati 2.

On fourth-and-11 from their 1, the Bengals tried to punt from the end zone. Keith Bulluck crashed in to block and recover the ball for a touchdown.

Glenn Holt, the former Kentucky standout, returned the ensuing kickoff 31 yards to the Cincinnati 38.

"The blockers that I have, they're really good," Holt said. "They help me out a lot. I talk to them, talk to each other. I tell them 'I just read the block and just take it the way you want to take it.' "

But the Bengals were three-and-out. Cincinnati finished 3-for-13 in third-down situations.

Next, the Bengals visit the Super Bowl-champion New York Giants.

"The best way to look at our situation is we're 0-and-2. We're by no means out of the playoffs," Palmer said. "We've definitely got an uphill battle ahead of us, but who better to get your mindset back than by going into the defending champion's home and getting a win? For confidence, for momentum, just for the rest of the year."

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