You know things are going bad when not even A.J. Green’s heroics can help the Cincinnati Bengals win.
Green’s 70-yard touchdown reception gave the Bengals their first lead of the game with 5:03 remaining, but Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota drove the Titans 73 yards for a game-winning score.
Mariota’s 7-yard touchdown pass to DeMarco Murray with 36 seconds remaining lifted the Titans to a 24-20 victory Sunday at Nissan Stadium.
“I feel for our players, for the opportunity to get ahead in the game and our inability to get it stopped there at the end,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said. “We give up a score before halftime, the field goal. And then we give up the score obviously at the end of the football game. That’s a 10-point swing right there. Those are huge things.”
Murray caught the game-winning pass on third and goal, slipped tackle attempts by cornerback Darqueze Dennard and safety Clayton Fejedelem and stretched the ball into the end zone to score his third touchdown of the game and keep the Titans in first place in the AFC South Division at 6-3.
The loss, which included an ejection of linebacker Vontaze Burfict in the first half, was the Bengals’ second in a row and third in the last four games, dropped them to 3-6 and all but snuffed whatever slim hopes they were hanging on to for making a run to the postseason.
Burfict was ejected with 5:12 left in the first half after drawing two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in a span of three plays. The first came when he bumped Murray well out of bounds.
Two plays later, Burfict made contact with an official, pushing his arm out of the way, resulting in his ejection once week after Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green was disqualified for fighting in the 23-7 loss at Jacksonville.
Burfict declined comment after the game.
“He has to understand,” Lewis said. “He knows better. We pay a price.”
Murray’s 1-yard touchdown run one play after Burfict’s ejection upped the Tennessee lead to 14-6. And while the Bengals were able to close to within 14-13 on a Joe Mixon 3-yard touchdown run with 1:42 left in the first half, the Cincinnati offense did nothing in the second half for the second consecutive week, other than Green’s long touchdown, which accounted for 70 of the team’s (144) yards after halftime.
Last week against the Jaguars, the Bengals had 31 yards and three first downs in the second half.
The Cincinnati defense had blanked Tennessee in the second half until Murray’s game-winning score.
The Titans appeared to have another score with rookie wide receiver Corey Davis headed for his first career touchdown when Kirkpatrick blasted him at the 1-yard line, forcing a fumble that went into and out of the end zone for a touchback with 13:19 remaining.
Murray had two short touchdown runs in the first half sandwiched around a Dalton to Brandon LaFell 37-yard touchdown, which was followed by a missed extra point by Randy Bullock.
Joe Mixon added a 3-yard touchdown run with 1:42 left halftime to get the Bengals within 14-13, but the defense led the Titans drive 53 yards in 10 plays to get a Ryan Succop 44-yard field goal at the gun for a 17-13 lead.
That’s how it stayed until the team’s traded touchdowns in the final five minutes.
The Bengals will be back on the road next Sunday in Denver.