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Titans-Bengals: Live Updates, Analysis

Cincinnati's Joe Burrow and Tennessee's Ryan Tannehill were sacked more than any other NFL quarterbacks during the regular season. Which one will stand tall and lead his team to victory in their divisional playoff matchup.

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Titans look to cash in on the fact that they were the sole AFC team to earn a bye in this year’s playoffs when they host the Cincinnati Bengals in a divisional round contest at Nissan Stadium.

The big news for the Titans is the return of running back Derrick Henry, who missed the final nine games of the regular season with a broken foot. He now has a steel plate and some screws in the foot, and his fitness, his speed and his durability will be closely watched.

The Bengals got to this point with their first playoff win in 31 years, a 26-19 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders in last weekend’s wild card round. Quarterback Joe Burrow, the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, led the NFL in completion percentage (70.4) and touchdown passes of 30 yards or more (15) during the regular season, but he also was sacked 51 times, which was more than anyone other quarterback (Tennessee’s Ryan Tannehill was next having been sacked 47 times). The ability of Burrow’s offensive line to protect him figures to be the most important factor in Cincinnati’s chances to score.

The winner of this game will face the winner of Sunday’s matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills in next weekend’s AFC Championship.

On to kickoff.

FIRST QUARTER

Temperature at kickoff is 36 degrees. It will drop as the game progresses and the sun goes down. The goalpost flags indicate little wind.

Cincinnati wins the coin toss and defers its option until the second half. Tennessee will get the ball first. 

Touchback. The Titans will start at their own 25.

(15:00) The first play of the game is a play-action fake to Derrick Henry. Ryan Tannehill’s pass to Julio Jones is intercepted.

Cincinnati has the ball at the Tennessee 42.

(14:08) A missed tackle by David Long allows running back Joe Mixon to turn a short reception into a 21-yard gain. It was second-and-13 after Naquan Jones and Denico Autry combined for a sack on first down.

(12:06) Rookie kicker Evan McPherson produces the first points with a 38-yard field goal. A delay of game penalty made it third-and-14, and Burrow completed a pass to Tee Higgins for eight yards. Scoring drive: 6 plays, 22 yards, 2:50. CINCINNATI 3, TENNESSEE 0

Cincinnati’s offense now has had nine full drives in the postseason. Five have ended with field goals and two with touchdowns. 

(11:25) Derrick Henry’s second run of the contest is a loss of a yard. His first, on the preceding snap, gained two yards.

(10:42) Safety Von Bell sacks Tannehill for a loss of seven yards on third down. Each quarterback has gone down once so far.

(9:57) Another sack. This one by Harold Landry for a loss of eight yards that makes it third-and-18. 

(8:39) Cincinnati can’t convert and is forced to punt. Returner Chester Rogers is interfered as he attempts to field the kick. It’s a 15-yard penalty, and Tennessee’s offense will start from its own 40. 

(8:29) The offense crosses midfield with an 11-yard reception by Julio Jones on first down and immediately goes no-huddle.

(6:52) It’s three plays before the Titans huddle again. Henry runs for 8 yards. Henry runs for 3 yards. Henry runs and loses 1 yard.

(6:04) Tannehill’s throw to A.J. Brown on third-and-11 from the Bengals’ 39 is off the mark. That was Brown’s first target, and he was open.

(6:00) Brett Kern’s punt is fair caught at the 12. 

(5:17) The Bengals have the day’s first big play. Ja’Marr Chase catches a short pass on second-and-9, makes former LSU teammate Kristian Fulton miss and goes 57 yards to the Tennessee 30. 

(3:45) After a reverse to Chase gains 2 yards, Autry sacks Burrow for a loss of 6. It’s third-and-14. 

(2:15) Another field goal attempt. This one is from 45 yards, and it is good. Scoring drive: 6 plays, 61 yards, 3:41. CINCINNATI 6, TENNESSEE 0

(2:11) D’Onta Foreman’s first carry of the day starts the Titans’ next drive and gains 2 yards. 

(0:07) Tannehll avoids a sack and scrambles for 5 yards on the final play of the quarter. The bad news is that it was third-and-7. It’s now fourth-and-2 from their own 28.

This is the first time under coach Mike Vrabel the Titans have been held scoreless in the first quarter of a playoff game. In 2019, they scored seven each against New England and Baltimore and 10 against Kansas City. Last season, they scored 10 against Baltimore. 

From Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats): The Titans’ three sacks are the most in the 1st quarter of a playoff since the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX vs the Eagles

SECOND QUARTER

(15:00) The Titans start the second quarter with a punt. Cincinnati’s Trent Taylor fair catches it at the 12. 

(14:15) The Bengals get out of the shadow of their goal line once again. This time, it is a 20-yard reception by Tee Higgins on third-and-6 from the 16. 

(11:30) Tennessee forces a punt after Cincinnati nets four yards on the next three plays. A holding penalty on Racey McMath costs the Titans 10 yards on the return. The offense will start at its own 16, its worst field position of the day. 

(11:17) One play gets the Titans across midfield. It is a 41-yard reception by A.J. Brown. It’s first down at the Cincinnati 43. 

(6:12) On first-and-goal from the 3, Derrick Henry takes a direct snap and runs off left tackle for a touchdown.

After Cincinnati is flagged for too many men in formation, the Titans elect to have the ball spotted at the 1 so they can attempt a two-point conversion. Henry runs right but is stopped. Scoring drive: 9 plays, 84 yards, 5:10. TENNESSEE 6, CINCINNATI 6

(2:35) The Bengals avert disaster on what has become a good drive. Higgins catches a pass for a 20-yard gain. Fulton forces a fumble, but the ball goes directly to Chase and the Bengals pick up an extra yard. Coming out of the two-minute warning, it will be first-and-10 at the Tennessee 21.

Cincinnati gets the ball to start the second half. Putting points on the board here – and leaving the Titans little or no time to respond – could be a game-changer. 

(2:00) David Long is credited with a sack – that is four for Tennessee’s defense – but for no loss. Tennessee calls it first timeout.

(1:47) The Titans call their second timeout after 1-yard reception by C.J. Uzomah.

Jeffery Simmons makes it five sacks as Burrow gives ground. This one is a loss of 12 yards, and the Titans use their final timeout with 1:40 to play. 

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(1:40) The Bengals get their third field goal, this one from 54 yards, and retake the lead. Scoring drive: 11 plays, 39 yards, 4:32. CINCINNATI 9, TENNESSEE 6

Five sacks match the number Tennessee’s defense had in its last playoff game, last season’s loss to Baltimore.

(1:30) After a 26-yard return Dontrell Hilliard to the 26, the Titans offense goes to work with no timeouts.

(1:10) Tennessee goes three-and-out with two incomplete passes and an 8-yard Tannehill scramble. Cincinnati calls its final timeout and will get the ball back.

The Bengals have the ball at their own 18 with 1:02 to play.

(0:00) Cincinnati completes a couple of passes but the receivers can’t get out of bounds. That leads to two desperation plays from its own 44. Burrow throws away the first. The Titans allow a short completion to Uzomah and 32-yard gain as time runs out.

Cincinnati has a 214-129 edge in total offense. Burrow actually has thrown for 236 yards, but the sacks have cost 29 yards.

Henry has 30 yards on 10 carries. Tannehill is 7-13 for 92 yards with two for 49 yards to Brown and three for 37 yards to Jones.

THIRD QUARTER

A 31-yard kickoff return gives Cincinnati the ball at its own 35 to open the half. 

(11:34) Jeffery Simmons with another sack. This one is a loss of 6 and makes it second-and-16 from the 34.

That is six sacks for Tennessee’s defense, the same number it had in the three games of the 2019 playoff run combined.

(10:53) Inside linebacker David Long is injured. Coud be a big opportunity for Jayon Brown to reestablish himself as a big part of the defense.

(9:41) Joe Mixon starts right, cuts left and goes untouched over 16 yards for a touchdown. Scoring drive: 9 plays, 65 yards, 5:26. CINCINNATI 16, TENNESSEE 6

During the regular season, the Bengals scored 56 points on their opening possessions of the second half. That was second in the NFL to Green Bay. 

(7:38) After three Derrick Henry runs for 28 yards, D’Onta Foreman breaks one for 45 yards. It’s first-and-goal from the 9.

The Titans now have more rushing yards (110) than passing yards (85) on the day.

(6:48) Tannehill’s short pass to Chester Rogers is tipped by Mike Hilton, who intercepts it and returns it to the 39. Hilton is flagged for taunting after the play. Cincinnati has the ball at its own 24. 

Tannehill threw two interceptions in the four playoff games over the past two seasons. He has thrown two today. 

(5:09) The defense bails out Tannehill with a three-and-out that forces the Bengals to punt. Tennessee’s offense is back in business at its own 28 after the kick.

(3:44) The Titans are threatening again. After two Henry runs for a first down, Tannehill completes a 40-yard pass to A.J. Brown at the Cincinnati 22.

(1:40) Randy Bullock attempts a 34-yard field goal after Dontrell Hilliard’s 5-yard reception on third-and-9. The kick is good. Scoring drive: 7 plays, 56 yards, 3:24. CINCINNATI 16, TENNESSEE 9

(1:28) A 32-yard kickoff return set up the Bengals at their own 40, but on the first play, Samaje Perine can’t haul in Burrow’s pass and Amani Hooker intercepts it. He returns it to the 27.

A long video review leads to “the call stands.” 

(0:22) After a false start against Ben Jones makes it second-and-16 from the 33, Tannehill connects with Brown for a touchdown pass. Great catch by Brown against tight coverage. Scoring drive: 2 plays, 27 yards, 1:04. TENNESSEE 16, CINCINNATI 16

(0:00) End of the quarter.

Tennessee outscored its opponents 120-99 in the regular season. Cincinnati outscored its opponents 139-119. 

FOURTH QUARTER

(12:13) Down goes Burrow again. Bud Dupree cleans it up after Harold Landry failed to get him down. It’s fourth-and-19 after the 16-yard loss. The Bengals will punt.

Seven sacks are a franchise record for a playoff game.

(11:18) The Titans get the ball at their own 17 after Chester Rogers’ fair catch.

(7:21) The Titans go for it on fourth-and-1 from the Cincinnati 35 after Tannehill is stopped for no gain on third-and-1. Henry gets the carry, and he loses 2 yards.

(7:16) Kyle Peko and Harold Landry combine for sack number eight on the first play of the opening drive. It’s a 7-yard loss. 

(3:38) On third-and-8 from the Tennessee 48, Tennessee ties the NFL postseason sack record with its ninth of the game. Jeffery Simmons gets this one, his third. It’s a loss of 10, and the Bengals have to punt it.

(2:43) Tennessee’s offense starts at its own 16. Two timeouts in hand. 

(0:28) The Titans offense was in no hurry. On just its fifth play, Tannehill throws his third interception. Cornerback Eli Apple tipped the pass intended for Nick Westbrook-Ikhine and linebacker Logan Wilson intercepted.

Cincinnati ball at its own 48. Two timeouts.

(0:28) Burrow and Chase hook up for 19 yards to the Tennessee 34.

(0:09) The Bengals position the ball on the right hashmark to set up a game-winning field goal attempt and call timeout with four seconds to play.

It is a 52-yard kick. It’s good. Final score: Cincinnati 19, Tennessee 16.

The Titans’ season has ended. The Bengals are on to the AFC Championship game.