NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Titans (1-1) begin their first of two consecutive road games with a Week 3 matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals (2-0) Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.
The Bengals stand as one of the seven remaining unbeaten teams in the NFL after a dominating 24-10 win last week against the Atlanta Falcons. In that game, the Bengals defense intercepted Matt Ryan three times and sacked him twice. Running back Giovanni Bernard racked up 169 total yards (90 rushing, 79 receiving) and rookie back Jeremy Hill ran for 74 yards on 15 carries, including his first career NFL touchdown. Through two games, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has thrown for 553 yards and two touchdowns without a turnover. Cincinnati's plus-five turnover differential is second only to the Carolina Panthers.
The Titans and Bengals haven't met since 2011 when the Bengals overcame a 17-7 halftime deficit, scoring 17 unanswered points in the second half en route to a 24-10 win at LP Field. Dalton threw for 217 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie, while rookie receiver A.J. Green led the Bengals with seven catches for 83 yards.
Marvin Lewis is in his 12th season as head coach of the Bengals and stands as the winningest coach in franchise history. Lewis and Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt crossed paths from 1997-98 with the Baltimore Ravens. It was Whisenhunt's first NFL coaching job as Baltimore's tight ends coach.
Here's five things to watch for Sunday's game.
5 Things to Watch
1. Getting to Andy Dalton
This falls in the category of 'easier said than done'. Dalton has yet to be sacked and has only been hit one time through two games. Alternately, the Titans are second in the league with eight sacks. Those eight quarterback sacks are tied for the best mark through two weeks during the "Titans Era" of the franchise.
Getting to Dalton would go a long way towards getting the Bengals to turn the ball over for the first time this season.
- Fast Start on Offense**
The Titans have yet to score a first quarter point this season, which has put a lot of pressure on the defense to get stops. The defense showed Week 1 that it can play well with a lead, forcing three turnovers while the Titans were in front of the Chiefs.
Against the Cowboys, the Titans defense was on the field for 41:11, a number the Titans need to avoid going forward.
3. Sticking with the Ground Game
This is a continuation on number two. The Titans ran for an impressive 6.3 yards per carry last week against Dallas, but only ran the ball 13 times. Shonn Greene led the team with 40 yards on five first half carries and is averaging 5.6 yards per carry in two games.
A full dose of Shonn Greene, Dexter McCluster and the rest of the Titans running game would help the Titans get their second road win of the season.
4. Stopping the Run
After watching tape of Cowboys running back Demarco Murray gash the Titans for 167 rushing yards, defensive coordinator Ray Horton said he'd be surprised if the Bengals first play wasn't a run.
Cincinnati has a young tandem of backs in Bernard and Hill that will be a focus of the Bengals' offensive game plan. Horton told media that he thinks Bernard is a star in the making.
The Bengals' second year back out of North Carolina is one of only two NFL running backs to have 130 yards both rushing and receiving through two games. The Bengals will use Bernard in a variety of ways to get the ball in his hands, just like the Chiefs do with Jamaal Charles.
Bernard will be the point of emphasis for the Titans defense Sunday, especially if star receiver A.J. Green is unable to go.
5. Inactive Lists
Speaking of Green, his status on Sunday will be a major storyline. The Bengals top receiver suffered a toe injury in Week 1 and aggravated it last week against the Falcons, causing Green to leave the game in the first quarter.
Cincinnati linebacker and leading tackler Vontaze Burfict suffered a concussion in Week 2 and is listed as doubtful to play against the Titans. The Pro Bowl linebacker from a year ago recorded 177 tackles in 2013 along with three sacks, one interception, two fumble recoveries and one touchdown. He would be sorely missed by Cincinnati.
On the Titans side, cornerback Jason McCourty's status is up in the air. He'll likely be a game time decision after suffering a groin injury last week against the Cowboys.
This week's game will be televised regionally on CBS, including Nashville affiliate WTVF NewsChannel 5. Brad Johansen will handle play-by-play duties, and Chris Simms will serve as analyst.
The Titans Radio Network, including Nashville flagship 104.5 The Zone, will broadcast the game across the Mid-South with the "Voice of the Titans" Mike Keith, analyst Frank Wycheck, gameday host Rhett Bryan and sideline reporter Jonathan Hutton.
Additionally, Sports USA will broadcast the game to a national radio audience. Adam Amin (play-by-play), John Robinson (analyst) and Drew Deener (sideline reporter) will have the call.