Titans let halftime lead slip away, lose to Bengals

Sunday, November 6, 2011 at 9:18pm

Halfway home, there seems to be nothing on which the Tennessee Titans know they can rely.

Their Pro Bowl running back, Chris Johnson, remains inconsistent and relatively unproductive. No one has emerged as even a reasonable facsimile of wide receiver Kenny Britt in terms of explosiveness and reliability. The defense, once so solid, has given up way too many points and third-down conversions of late.

One thing that never failed them through the first seven contests was a quality first half. Now, that has been blistered as well.

Tennessee’s 10-point halftime lead Sunday vanished amid a rash of futility on both sides of the ball. The result was a 24-17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals before a sellout crowd at LP Field that left the Titans with an utterly non-descript record of 4-4 at the mid-point of their first season under coach Mike Munchak.

“We thought we’d win the football game — we thought we’d play well and go get it,” Munchak said. “We knew we had to. We didn’t. So we are where we are.

“We’ve earned the 4-4 record with good and bad stuff we’ve done in the first half of the season. We definitely think we should be better than that. No doubt we think that, but we’re not.”

Whatever inconsistencies plagued them prior to this one, the first two quarters never failed to accurately determine their fortunes. The Titans were 4-0 in games they either led or were tied at the half, 0-3 when they trailed.

The reversal against the Bengals (6-2) was as definitive as it was unexpected — that is to say completely.

“It’s crazy because coming in the half we had so much confidence, so much momentum,” Johnson said. “Then we come out here in the second half and just be flat again, not making plays and looking like our old selves. It’s crazy that it plays out that way sometimes.”

Tennessee ended the first half with a 12-play, 81-yard drive capped by Matt Hasselbeck’s 16-yard touchdown pass to Lavelle Hawkins with eight seconds to go. At that point the Titans had plenty of reasons to feel good, not the least of which was their 17-7 lead.

Johnson had rushed for 55 yards on nine carries, two receptions for 22 yards and looked much more like his old self than at any other time. Tight end Jared Cook was a featured receiver for the first time and had a team-best three receptions for 39 yards. The defense had gotten off the field on third down more often than not even though it had not forced a three-and-out.

“When you’re up by 10, there’s no reason you should lose a game,” defensive tackle Shaun Smith said. “… We didn’t play a complete game. You have to play a complete game for 60 minutes. Besides, that … this is a tough one to swallow right now.”

In the second half, Cincinnati’s rookie quarterback, Andy Dalton, not only threw a pair of touchdown passes but he also came through with a first-down completion on third-and-18. Twelve of the Bengals’ 20 first downs and 180 of their 319 total yards came after intermission.

In contrast, Tennessee’s offense managed just three first downs in six possessions before its final drive, which began with 1:55 on the clock and no timeouts remaining. Johnson added just nine yards on five rushes, and Cook set up Cincinnati’s final score — a 36-yard field goal — when he fumbled at his own 20 with 3:49 remaining.

A desperate, last-chance play launched from the Titans’ own 38 ended 32 yards short of the end zone.

 “That was a good job [in the] second half, obviously — just playing, not flinching, coming out winning the second half,” Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis said. “… We were able to sustain drives, make first downs and that’s how you have got to play.”

The Titans might just as well have not played the second half at all.

“We played hard,” Munchak said. “I don’t think it changed — how hard we were playing or how badly we wanted to win the football game. You credit to them for making plays. They made plays in tough spots, which normally a team wouldn’t make those plays.

“As bad as things were for us in the second half, we still had plenty of opportunities. It was just a group effort of playing very poorly in the second half.”


• Tennessee’s first touchdown came two plays after Munchak opted to go for it on fourth-and-3 from the 10 rather than attempt a 28-yard field goal. Hawkins moved the chains with a five-yard reception.

Cincinnati had gone ahead 7-3 on the previous possession.

“It was the right time and the right place to go for it,” Munchak said. “… The boys responded and we score on that drive. … I thought we needed that touchdown.”

• Smith recorded his first sack for the Titans when he got to Dalton late in the first quarter. It was just the fourth career sack in 87 games for the 6-foot-2, 325-pounder.

• Cook (lower leg), Hawkins (dislocated finger), defensive end Dave Ball (concussion) and wide receiver Nate Washington (hip) were listed as having been injured during the game.

• The Bengals have a five-game win streak for the first time in 23 years.

9 Comments on this post:

By: Harleyfxrs01 on 11/7/11 at 6:36

I watched the first half of the game. Came back to watch the second half. Saw CJ twice try to run a play up the center. It was like watching one of those wind up toys bumping into a wall over and over. I was already tired of the commentators talk about CJ. It is the same way with Manning and the Colts. People, each team out there is not comprised of one man.
I turned off the game, I was tired of watching this lame Titans team. There is no commitment to the game, there is no drive, no compassion. What Munchak needs to do is get some films of the Ravens and play them over and over, study them, watch the intensity of them playing, the need and want to win, determination. That is something that is very apparent with the Titans, there is no willingness to win. Bruce Mathews had the drive when he played. Bruce, help these men out, some how some way you have to rub off on these men. For now, Im done watching the Titans, I can make more out of my day then watching them. For that 3 hr period of time I can get so much more done in my garage and on my motorcycle.

By: dargent7 on 11/7/11 at 7:31

Well, Hasselbeck is definitely better, by 100%, than Young or Collins.
CJ is just a waste of money who is complacent since he got the $53 million.
He averages "2.4 yds. a carry...." before yesterday. Now, he's up to a whopping 4.5 yds.
Pathetic. Ringer is better at 1/4th the salary.
We'll end up 6-10, then "re-build".

By: MusicCity615 on 11/7/11 at 8:14

Jerry Gray's defensive scheme has go to go. Not jamming their receivers and disrupting their routes, but instead putting our secondary at least 10 yards off their receivers and letting them run routes on air. That is not Titans football, that is not Titans defense, that "defensive" strategy of don't give up the big play has go to go!!!!

Go Titans!!!!

By: T-BONE on 11/7/11 at 8:39

The Tit-toons and NFL have been nothing but a losing proposition for Nashville ever since day one! Bud Adams is still "laughing all the way to the bank"...in Texass; on how he and the NFL "SCREWED" Nashville! So "PAY" the mercenaries more money...that's all they care about anyway! They will play for any team that pays the most! Dig deep $ucker$...or get a life & think of "BUD" when you pay your too high property taxes! By the way...playing football is NOT HEROIC!

By: joe41 on 11/7/11 at 9:44

Sorry TBONE but you have it all wrong. We can't help it if your wife locked you out of the house.

But, on a serious note, the Titans looked great in the first half. But their coaches made adjustments at halftime and ours did not.


By: jwk6179 on 11/7/11 at 10:00

Chris Johnson FINALLY had another game this season in which he rushed for over 50 yards. He rushed for 55 yards in the first half but ONLY FOR 9 the second half. And the Titans paid him $53.5 MILLION for that effort.

NBC Sports and Bob Costas were reporting last night on Sunday Night Football that sourses close to the team are saying the Titans may cut Chris Johnson at the end of the season to get out of their $30 Million GUARANTEED to Chris Johnson. For those of you needing sources and proof, go to www.NBCSports.com, click on NFL and then click on the Titans and you can read the report for yourself!

By: TITAN1 on 11/7/11 at 10:19

T-Bone, I just looked up idiot in the dictionary and your picture was there.

By: dargent7 on 11/7/11 at 11:19

I DO hope the Titans cut this jack*** like they did "Pac-Man" and "VY".
Hell. You want loser gansta's? Go recruit in Detroit.

By: RTungsten on 11/7/11 at 11:31

Chris Johnson owes the team and fans a refund.