No playoff revenge for Tennessee Titans, who lose 20-16 vs. Cincinnati Bengals

The Tennessee Titans came up short against the Cincinnati Bengals. Again.

The Titans lost 20-16 versus the Bengals on Sunday at Nissan Stadium, an eerily similar result to last season's 19-16 Bengals win over the Titans in the AFC Divisional Round of the playoffs. The Bengals gashed the Titans for 374 yards Sunday, stymying the Titans' pass rush and hitting deep passes to Tee Higgins on third downs to secure the win.

Tennessee (7-4) forced the Bengals to kick a field goal in a four-point game with two minutes left, but the Bengals (7-4) were given another opportunity to stay on the field after defensive tackle Kevin Strong was called for a hit on a defenseless player, the Bengals' long snapper, to give the Bengals half the distance to the goal and a first down to kneel out the clock.

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The Bengals limited running back Derrick Henry to 38 rushing yards on 17 attempts, slowing down the Titans' offense save for two long completions by quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

Higgins, an Oak Ridge native, caught seven passes for 114 yards, including the go-ahead 27-yard TD pass from Joe Burrow early in the fourth quarter.

Kudos to the Bengals' run defense

Henry's first carry broke for nine yards. His next nine carries gained only 10 yards.

Give credit to Tannehill and the passing game for keeping drives moving. Tannehill did a good job of finding his receivers and tight ends on third-and-medium plays to extend drives and prevent the offense from turning into a three-and-out machine.

But the Bengals sold out to stop Henry from getting going, often lining five or six men up on the defensive line. This was only the second time Henry had been held to fewer than 50 rushing yards this season, including the Week 2 loss at Buffalo.

Third down defense: Great to burnt

Cincinnati couldn't get anything going offensively in the first quarter-and-a-half, mainly because of Tennessee's impressive efforts on third downs. The Bengals opened the game 0-for-5 on third down, turning promising drives into punts and field goal attempts.

Then Burrow and the Bengals' offense got going. The Bengals converted five of their last eight third-down tries, including conversions on a third-and-9 and two third-and-12s. The Bengals scored touchdowns on the next play directly following both third-and-12 conversions.

Yes! Yes! Yes! No. ... Yes!

The Titans' first touchdown came under bizarre circumstances. On the first play from scrimmage after the Bengals tied the score 3-3 in the second quarter, Tannehill found Henry on a screen pass. The All-Pro running back barreled down field, flashing his open-field speed. But around the 7-yard line, after 69 yards of open-field gains, Henry had the ball stripped from his grasp.

The ball bounced forward into the end zone. Titans rookie receiver Treylon Burks, who had been trailing the play, fell on the ball for his first career NFL touchdown, giving the Titans a 10-3 lead after the extra point.

Henry was visibly angry on the sideline afterward; it was his first fumble since Week 1, though he still hasn't lost a fumble since Week 17 of the 2020 season. But if there's ever a good time for a fumble, it's when you know your teammate will be able to fall on it for a score. Too bad football doesn't have an assisted touchdowns stat.

What's next?

The Titans visit the Philadelphia Eagles and former receiver A.J. Brown next Sunday. Kickoff is scheduled for noon and the game will be televised on Fox.

Contact Nick Suss at nsuss@gannett.com. Follow Nick on Twitter @nicksuss.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Tennessee Titans don't get playoff revenge, lose 20-16 vs. Bengals