Dalton's TD catch leads Bengals over Titans 33-7

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) celebrates with wide receiver Mohamed Sanu (12) after Dalton scored on an 18-yard pass reception from Sanu in the first half of an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans, Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014, in C
David Kohl

CINCINNATI (AP) Andy Dalton, pass catcher?

Why not? The way things are going for the Bengals, even the most risky play turns out right.

And yes, that includes the Bengals quarterback trying to emulate Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green.

Dalton became the first Bengals quarterback to catch a touchdown pass on Sunday, the signature play in a 33-7 victory over the Tennessee Titans that kept Cincinnati unbeaten heading into its bye week.

And feeling pretty good, too.

''I was joking with the guys all week: Who's going to catch the first TD pass, me or one of the other guys?'' said Dalton, who caught one pass at TCU. ''In practice, that (defender) wasn't out there. I thought I was going to get hit.''

Nope.

Cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson missed - missed the chance for the interception, missed the chance to deck the quarterback, who slipped off him and went 18 yards for the touchdown, diving just inside the pylon.

There was a lot more to it than just the Dalton-turned-receiver trickery. The defense nearly pitched a shutout.

And sloppy Tennessee (1-2) helped out a lot, too, doing just about everything wrong a few hours after getting some very sad news about a former player.

A few hours before kickoff, the Titans learned that kicker Rob Bironas had died overnight in a one-car crash in Nashville. He'd been released in March after his ninth season with Tennessee.

''Our hearts go out to his family,'' said kicker Ryan Succop, who missed a pair of field goal attempts in the first half. ''Obviously we have heavy hearts, particularly the guys that were close with him. We feel for them right now.''

The Bengals (3-0) are off to their best start in eight years. They got a lot of big plays, a few breaks and plenty of help.

The Titans committed a safety for holding in the end zone on a punt, missed those two field goal attempts, snapped the ball before Jake Locker was ready in shotgun formation, and whiffed on the game's defining play.

On the final play of the first quarter, Dalton flipped the ball to receiver Mohamed Sanu, who ran to his right while the quarterback sneaked toward the other side of the field. Sanu stopped and threw a cross-field pass that hung in the air.

Wreh-Wilson misplayed it, bumping Dalton as he ran past. Dalton became the first NFL quarterback to score on a catch since Kansas City's Tyler Thigpen in 2008.

''I saw the guy and said, `Oh, God,''' Sanu said. ''But (Dalton) went up and made the play. I was scared for a moment.''

Even more stunning: The Titans were prepared for the play, having practiced for it during the week.

Dalton's threw his first interception - Cincinnati's first turnover of the season - with 44 seconds left before halftime. But Locker forced a throw into coverage in the end zone for an off-setting interception that left the Bengals with a 19-0 halftime lead.

The Bengals didn't have to do much in the second half other than let their defense finish it off. Dalton was 15 of 23 for 169 yards and wasn't sacked for the third straight game.

Green, who missed most of the last game with an injured big right toe, started and had six catches for 102 yards. He also drew a pair of pass interference penalties from Wreh-Wilson.

Giovani Bernard had a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs. His dive with 1:58 left in the third quarter completed a 14-play, 80-yard drive that lasted 7 minutes, 18 seconds and finished off Tennessee.

The Titans repeatedly undercut drives with penalties. Locker was 17 of 34 for 185 yards with two interceptions, two sacks and a passer rating of 41.9. Succop missed field goal attempts of 40 and 44 yards in the first half, helping Cincinnati take control.

The Titans ended the shutout on Shonn Greene's 1-yard touchdown run with 6:09 to go.

Notes: Quentin Groves was called for holding Cedric Peerman in the end zone on the punt, resulting in a safety. ... The Bengals set a club record with their 11th straight regular season win at home. They lost at Paul Brown Stadium in the playoffs last season. ... Dalton became the fifth Bengals QB to catch a pass, joining Akili Smith, Ryan Fitzpatrick, David Klingler and Sam Wyche. ... Pro Bowl LB Vontaze Burfict was inactive because of two concussions in two weeks.

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Online: AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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