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Cincinnati Bengals get thumped by Tennessee, 24-20

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NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 12: The the Tennessee Titans line up against the Cincinnatti Bengals during the second half at Nissan Stadium on November 12, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 12: The the Tennessee Titans line up against the Cincinnatti Bengals during the second half at Nissan Stadium on November 12, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images) /
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A fourth-quarter touchdown catch by A.J. Green gave the Bengals their first lead of the game. But, the Titans drove for the game-winning score in the game’s final minutes. Cincinnati falls to 3-6 and further dwindles its chances for a return to the postseason.

NASHVILLE – The Cincinnati Bengals (3-6) will be playing a sad country song on their way back to the Queen City after falling to the Tennessee Titans (6-3) in the Music City, 24-20, on Sunday.

Might I suggest “A Place to Fall Apart,” by Merle Haggard?

DeMarco Murray’s third score of the day – a nine-yard touchdown catch with 36 seconds left – capped off a 12-play, 73-yard drive to lift the first-place Titans to their fourth straight win.

Just over four minutes earlier, the Bengals’ offense woke up from another dismal second-half performance with a go-ahead 70-yard touchdown pass from Andy Dalton to A.J. Green. It was just the second touchdown scored by Bill Lazor’s unit in the fourth quarter this season, first since Joe Mixon’s game-winner against Buffalo.

That deep strike to Green – his second-longest catch of the season – brought some much-needed life into the game.

Both teams punted five times to begin the second half, and only the Titans threatened to put points on the board with a 64-yard drive that ended when Corey Davis fumbled out of the end zone for a touchback on what was originally called the rookie’s first professional touchdown.

But once again it was a case of the Bengals’ defense being on the field way too much. After a franchise-low 37 plays in Jacksonville last week, the Bengals were out-snapped 84-50 at Nissan Stadium. They lost time of possession by over 20 minutes.

Takin’ care of ‘Ol Red

(You see the reference to another country song?)

Dalton was only sacked once against Tennessee, tied for the lowest mark this season (Buffalo). But it turned out to be a costly sack when Brian Orakpo turned Cedric Ogbuehi into a human turnstile and forced a fumble that Derrick Morgan hopped on. Five plays and a Vontaze Burfict ejection later, DeMarco Murray’s second touchdown run of the day gave Tennessee a 14-6 lead.

Dennard flips script

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One play after Dalton’s second first-half fumble spoiled a rare red zone venture for the Bengals, fourth-year corner Darqueze Dennard jumped a crossing route intended for Davis and hauled in his second career pick (first since Oct. 2015).

Dennard and William Jackson III each have one interception this season, while the two starters – Adam Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick – have yet to record one.

A 20-yard return set up Joe Mixon’s three-yard score to make it a 14-13 game.

Mixon’s celebration was short-lived, though. The rookie was scarce the rest of the day. He ran just three times for 17 of Cincinnati’s 24 second-half yards before Green’s touchdown catch.

Burfict gets the boot

Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict was ejected late in the first half after two 15-yard personal foul penalties on Tennessee’s 27-yard scoring drive.

The first was ticky-tack, as Burfict was flagged for hitting Murray out-of-bounds. Although, it looked like nothing more than an accidental cart bump in an aisle at Walmart.

The second flag came two plays later, called when Burfict slapped the hand of an official. That no-no sent Burfict to the showers early, leaving the Bengals without two starting linebackers with Kevin Minter missing his third straight game.

The Bengals were penalized 12 times for 84 yards in the game. Josh Shaw was called for holding three times on third-down incompletions, including on the Titans’ game-winning drive.

John Ross sighting

The Bengals dressed wideout John Ross against the Titans after the first-round pick was a healthy inactive against Jacksonville.

Ross was targeted on a deep ball early in the second quarter, but he stopped his route short and the pass sailed incomplete, forcing one of Kevin Huber’s seven punts.

Ending on a high note

For the third straight week, the Bengals allowed a field goal on the opposition’s final drive of the first half.

Mixon’s third rushing touchdown of the season cut Tennessee’s lead to one with less than two minutes left in the first half. But Marcus Mariota went 6-of-8 for 45 yards and the Titans drove to the Cincinnati 27 to set up Ryan Succop’s 44-yard field goal to make it 17-13 at the half.

What’s next?

It’s very close for Cincinnati to call its 2017 campaign a goner. The New York Times gives them a five percent chance to make the playoffs after losing to Tennessee. Tough to call that fake news.

The Bengals’ three-game road trip see its final stop next Sunday when they visit Denver, a city the Bengals haven’t won in since 1975.

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