CINCINNATI (AP) — Joe Burrow led the Cincinnati Bengals to another fast start Sunday.
This time, the rookie quarterback even finished it off.
After watching Giovani Bernard and Samaje Perine run for early scores, Burrows threw two fourth-quarter TD passes and closed it out with a time-consuming drive to seal the Bengals’ 31-20 victory over Tennessee.
The Bengals (2-5-1) blew leads each of the previous two weeks, but Burrow would not allow it to happen again. Instead, he threw for 249 yards and the crucial late scores to snap a three-game losing streak. Cincinnati has now matched its victory total from last season. And it was the first time second-year head coach Zac Taylor has defeated a team with a winning record.
Tennessee (5-2) has lost two straight and had a five-game road winning streak end. They are now tied with the Indianapolis Colts atop the AFC South.
Cincinnati’s reversal of fortune came on a day that began with five offensive starters on the inactive list and despite A.J. Green again struggling to become a major contributor.
Somehow, though, Burrow found a winning combination.
Cincinnati jumped to a 10-0 lead, courtesy of Randy Bullock’s 33-yard field goal and Perine’s 1-yard TD run, then answered each challenge from the Titans.
After Derrick Henry scored on a 3-yard run to make it 10-7, Bernard scored on a 12-yard run in the final minute of the half to give Cincinnati a 17-7 lead.
Burrow’s first TD pass, a 9-yarder to Tyler Boyd, extended the margin to 24-7 with 13:55 left.
Ryan Tannehill then hooked up with A.J. Brown on a 9-yard touchdown pass, but Burrow threw a 6-yard TD pass to Bernard with 7:30 left.
And Tannehill couldn’t rally the Titans. Tannehill was 18 of 30 with 233 yards two TDs and one interception. Henry had 18 carries for 112 yards.
Burrow wound up playing behind an offensive line that was almost completely revamped this week.
Right tackle Bobby Hart (knee), center Trey Hopkins (concussion protocol) and left tackle Jonah Williams (neck) had been ruled out by coach Zac Taylor on Friday. On Sunday, left guard Michael Jordan also appeared on the inactive list with an undisclosed illness.
So the Bengals plugged in rookie Hakeem Adeniji at left tackle for his first NFL start and promoted Shaq Calhoun from the practice squad. Calhoun replaced Jordan. The two veterans, center Billy Price and Fred Johnson at right tackle, also made starts. And that left Cincinnati with two backups — Keaton Sutherland and Quinton Spain, who joined the team Friday. Spain replaced Calhoun during the game and the line kept Burrow from being sacked.
Titans: A.J. Brown had a touchdown reception in his fourth straight game. ... The Titans started Sunday with a league-high plus-9 in turnovers margin but had no takeaways against the Bengals. ... It’s the first time Tennessee has lost when Henry topped the 100-yard mark.
Bengals: Burrow was 26 of 37 with no interceptions. ... Bernard had 15 carries for 62 yards. Perine ran 10 times for 32 yards. ... Tee Higgins had six catches for 78 yards, Boyd had six catches for 67 yards and Auden Tate had seven receptions for 65 yards.
Titans: Receiver Adam Humphries was carted off the field in the final minute of the first half after taking a scary hit to the head. He was diagnosed with a concussion and did not return. Punter Brett Kern appeared to be hurt on the final extra point attempt when a bad snap forced him to throw a pass.
Bengals: Cincinnati lost cornerback Darius Phillips with a left groin injury on Henry’s 3-yard TD run in the first half.
Titans: Host Chicago on Sunday.
Bengals: Will try to regroup and get healthy during a much-needed bye week.