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Halftime Observations: Defense Leading the Way, Bengals Have 9-6 Edge Over Titans

Cincinnati is hoping to win their first road playoff game in team history.

NASHVILLE — The Bengals lead the Titans 9-6 at halftime. It hasn't been pretty, but they're just two quarters away from the AFC Championship Game. 

Here are some of our first half observations, including what needs to happen for Cincinnati to complete the job in the final two quarters. 

Protecting Burrow

Burrow sacked three times first quarter for first time in career. Cincinnati offensive line struggled to block Jeffery Simmons and had multiple communication errors throughout the first half. 

If they're going to win this game, they desperately need to keep Burrow upright. That includes leaning on the quick passing attack and getting the ball to their playmakers in space. 

Burrow completed 17-of-24 passes for 238 yards in the first half. He was sacked five times and hit seven times. 

Shooter

Evan "Shooter" McPherson was money in the first half. He made all three of his field goal attempts, including a 54-yarder with less than two minutes left in the second quarter. 

The rookie continues to be a difference maker for the Bengals. There's a good chance they'll need McPherson to make a few more kicks in the second half.

Tee Time

Wide receiver Tee Higgins caught five of his six targets for 69 yards. Burrow leaned on Higgins throughout the first half. 

The Bengals need him to continue to make plays if they're going to upset the Titans. Speaking of playmakers, Ja'Marr Chase only has one catch, but it was a 57-yard catch-and-run that got the Bengals into field goal range in the first quarter. 

Chase and Higgins both made their presence known in the first half.

Two-Point Stand

The Bengals' defense stepped up and got a big stop midway through the second quarter after the Titans tied the game 6-6 on a Derrick Henry touchdown run. 

Linebacker Clay Johnston tackled Henry just short of the goal line after Tennessee opted to go for a 2-point conversation from the one-yard line. 

Instead of falling behind 8-6, the Bengals got the stop to stay even with the Titans.

The Bengals Will Win If...

They need to find a way to protect Burrow. The defense is playing well. If they take care of the ball, continue to keep the Titans' offense in check and make a few big plays on offense, then they have a good chance. 

Jessie Bates had a big interception on the first play of the game. If the defense can force another turnover or two, then it'll make life much easier on an offense that is struggling to protect its best player.

The protecting Burrow issue is much much easier said than done. The Bengals will get the ball to start the third quarter. If they can put together a sustained drive that ends in points, it'll go a long way in re-establishing the momentum they built in the first half.

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