By TERESA M. WALKER, AP Pro Football Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Joe Burrow threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Tee Higgins with 13:42 left to put Cincinnati ahead to stay, and the Bengals held off the Tennessee Titans 20-16 on Sunday for their third straight victory and fifth in six games.
The defending AFC champion Bengals (7-4) won the rematch of their divisional playoff victory over Tennessee despite not having running back Joe Mixon because he hadn’t cleared the concussion protocol. Also, receiver Ja’Marr Chase, the reigning AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, missed a fourth straight game.
Evan McPherson kicked a pair of field goals for the Bengals. He connected on a third with 1:53 left, but Titans lineman Kevin Strong was flagged for unnecessary roughness after landing on the long snapper. That nullified the kick but allowed the Bengals to run out the clock.
The Titans (7-4) equaled their most points allowed since a Week 2 loss at Buffalo as their two-game winning streak ended. This was just the second time since that loss that Tennessee gave up more than 17, matching the 20 points allowed in an overtime loss at Kansas City.
Cincinnati smothered NFL rushing leader Derrick Henry yet again, holding him to 38 yards, his second-lowest total of the season. Tennessee tried to rally by throwing to Henry, and he had a career-best 79 yards receiving. Ryan Tannehill threw for 291 yards, but the Titans couldn’t score a touchdown in three trips to the red zone.
Burrow threw for 270 yards, and Higgins finished with 114 yards on seven catches. Samaje Perine also ran a 7-yard TD that tied it at 10 with 1:55 left in the first half.
The Titans played their second straight game without center Ben Jones, a loss that showed as they were flagged twice for false starts on their opening drive. Tennessee also played without kicker Randy Bullock for a second straight game. Undrafted rookie Caleb Shudak went 3-of-4 on field goals, missing a 35-yarder to the right.
McPherson, who won the playoff game in January at Tennessee with a field goal as time expired, tied it up with a 47-yarder early in the second. His 38-yarder gave Cincinnati its first lead, 13-10 late in the third quarter.
Tennessee scored its only TD with a bit of luck. Tannehill tossed a short pass to Henry, who ran 69 yards before Cam Taylor-Britt poked the ball out at the Bengals 6. Rookie Treyon Burks recovered the ball in the end zone for his first career touchdown and a 10-3 lead.
Bengals right tackle La’el Collins went down late in the third quarter but returned later in the same drive.
Titans linebacker David Long Jr. went to the medical tent but returned a couple plays later.
Cincinnati starts a two-game homestand next Sunday when it hosts Kansas City.
The Titans visit Philadelphia next Sunday.
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