Titans rally, beat Bengals 24-20 for best start since 2008
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans are starting to show they can finish in style. The result is the best start for this franchise since 2008.
Marcus Mariota tossed a 7-yard touchdown pass to DeMarco Murray with 36 seconds left , and the Titans rallied to beat the Cincinnati Bengals 24-20 Sunday for their fourth consecutive victory.
Now the Titans (6-3) have their longest winning streak since winning five straight in 2009, and they haven’t won six games this early since 2008, when the Titans won their first 10 and last reached the playoffs as the AFC’s No. 1 seed.
“I use the word resilient a lot, but I think that’s the makeup of this team,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. “It’s amazing that they believe in themselves, they just know we always have a chance to win. That’s important in this business.”
Murray ran for two touchdowns, and Mariota finished with 264 yards passing.
The Bengals (3-6) lost for the third time in four games despite sacking Mariota four times. They started with three defensive starters scratched and lost a fourth when linebacker Vontaze Burfict was ejected in the second quarter after pushing the arm of an official.
Cincinnati took its only lead at 20-17 on a 70-yard TD pass from Andy Dalton to A.J. Green with 5:03 left, but the Bengals couldn’t stop the Titans, who drove 73 yards for the winning TD.
They had one last chance. On their final play, Dalton threw deep only to have Titans safety Kevin Byard knock the ball down.
“Not getting a ‘W’ really hurts,” Green said.
ANOTHER WEEK, ANOTHER BENGAL TOSSED
Last week, Green was ejected from a loss at Jacksonville for a fight with Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey that cost him $42,541 in fines. Against the Titans, Burfict was ejected with 5:12 left in the second quarter.
Burfict was flagged for a late hit on Murray, then two plays later referee Jeff Triplette announced Burfict had made contact with an official. Replays later showed Burfict shoving the left arm of down judge Jeff Bergman, who immediately threw a flag. Burfict took his time leaving the field, talking with fans, raising both arms and finally jumping to high-five a fan before going into the locker room.
“Sometimes what happens is you push back and you touch an official,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. “You can’t do that. He knows better and we pay a price. We pay a price because it hurts us when it’s on the field that way, and then he’s not on the field.”
Dalton had a hard time holding onto the ball with two fumbles in the second quarter. On the first, Titans linebacker Brian Orakpo sacked and stripped him of the ball, which was recovered by Derrick Morgan. Then Dalton had a bad snap that Morgan again recovered. But Mariota gave the ball right back to Cincinnati when Darqueze Dennard intercepted a pass.
RECORD STREAK ENDS
Titans kicker Ryan Succop’s NFL record streak of successful field goals finally ended at 56 after his first attempt. He missed wide right on a 48-yarder midway through the second quarter. Succop came into the game having easily topped the previous NFL mark of 46 consecutive field goals inside the 50 set by Matt Bryant of Atlanta between 2013 and 2015. It was Succop’s first miss from inside 50 yards since Sept. 21, 2014, in a loss at Cincinnati. The Titans kicker came into this game 21 of 23 on field goals. Succop connected from 44 yards for a 17-13 halftime lead.
Cincinnati: Cornerback Adam Jones left the field with 8:57 left in the third quarter, and the Bengals ruled him out with a concussion. ... Dennard also hurt a toe.
Tennessee: Mariota hurt his left, non-throwing shoulder on a scramble on the final drive, but he said he was fine. Mularkey said tight end Delanie Walker hurt a hand or wrist.
Bengals: Visit Denver next Sunday.
Titans: Visit Pittsburgh on Thursday night.
Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker