Tennessee’s first-team offense moved the ball but didn’t finish possessions with points, and its defense missed tackles on third-down early as Cincinnati prevailed 27-19 in the second preseason game for both teams at Paul Brown Stadium.
The Bengals won the toss and deferred, opting to kick to the Titans. Tennessee opened by moving the ball 54 yards on 11 plays but the drive ended with a 44-yard field goal by Rob Bironas. Jake Locker completed his first five pass attempts for 49 yards on the drive. He played a half and finished 12-for-20 passing for 116 yards that included at least two drops.
“I thought we did a good job moving the ball, but we just need to find ways to score touchdowns instead of settle for field goals,” Locker said. “We shot ourselves in the foot a little bit at times and stopped ourselves on some drives. But overall I thought we moved the ball and were effective between the 20s.”
Tennessee’s defense forced a turnover to end Cincinnati’s first possession when Jurrell Casey muscled the football away from Dalton during a third-and-8 pass play. Casey got penetration up the middle from Dalton’s right, saw the ball and wrapped his arms it instead of Dalton. Casey ripped it loose, recording a sack fumble and returned the ball nine yards.
“We had a pressure on. We had a nice pass rush, and I beat the guy one-on-one,” Casey said. “I saw (Andy) Dalton getting ready to throw the pass, and I just put my hand on the ball and pulled it down. Next thing I know, I have the ball and I’m trying to run in the end zone.”
Missed tackles by Tennessee’s defense on two third-down plays, however, helped Cincinnati score its first two touchdowns and build a 17-3 lead by halftime.
“We started off good with a turnover,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “We were hoping to get some points on the board, but we didn’t do that. It seemed like the defense never got into a rhythm after that, and we struggled. We couldn’t get stops, and we couldn’t make plays.”
Other items of note:
—Most of Tennessee’s starters played about a half, but Akeem Ayers and Kendall Wright separately left the field early via medical carts. Ayers suffered an ankle injury, and Wright suffered a knee injury during a hit after Wright made an 18-yard reception during the two-minute drill. Wright had four receptions for 44 yards.
—Right tackle David Stewart made his first start since suffering a broken leg on Dec. 2. Stewart, who didn’t play as long as the rest of the first-team offensive linemen, was able to establish rhythm with first-round pick Chance Warmack on the right side of the line before being replaced by Mike Otto.
—Jackie Battle handled the brunt of the carries with the third team. Battle, a powerful back who signed right before camp opened, rushed 12 times for 58 yards. Chris Johnson had 30 yards on seven carries, and Shonn Greene had 29 yards on six carries.
—Veteran QB Ryan Fitzpatrick replaced Locker and went 9-for-13 passing for 136 yards that included a 4-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Barden and a 46-yard TD to Michael Preston, who had 59 yards on three catches. Damian Williams added 65 yards on four catches.
—Defensive tackle Zach Clayton forced a fumble with Tennessee’s back against its goal line, and Nigel Nicholas recovered the ball with 1:45 remaining, but the Titans were unable to rally with a score.
—Titans linebackers Colin McCarthy, Greg Jones and Zaviar Gooden, safeties Markelle Martin and Daimion Stafford, fullback Quinn Johnson, center Brian Schwenke, receiver Marc Mariani and tight end Taylor Thompson were did not participate in the game. Tight end Delanie Walker and receiver Kevin Walter remain on the physically unable to perform list. Moise Fokou started in place of McCarthy, and Collin Mooney started in place of Quinn Johnson.