Sunday, August 24, 2003

Titans 23, Bengals 15

Opportunity knocks, team doesn't answer; Turnovers smother chances in loss to Titans

By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Peter Warrick runs the reverse behind the blocking of right tackle Willie Anderson.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
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The Bengals continued their down-up-down preseason with a 23-15 loss Saturday night to Tennessee at Paul Brown Stadium.

The loss, which dropped the Bengals to 1-2 before 41,335 fans, was a lesson in what the team has to avoid.

The Bengals committed three turnovers and had no takeaways; they are now minus-6 preseason in turnover differential.

The first-team offense moved up and down the field with 181 total yards in the first half but scored only one touchdown. The defense gave away the lead and could not stop Tennessee quarterback Steve McNair after the offense gained a 7-6 edge at the end of the second quarter.

They are the same types of mistakes that accounted for a 2-14 record in 2002. After a solid showing last week in beating Detroit, the Bengals reverted to their look from the opener against the Jets.

"My message today is we played a good football team," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. "We figured out what it takes to win in the NFL.

"When you play a good team, you have to be hitting on all cylinders. You have to convert and score when you have opportunities. That football team, when you don't do it that way, they find you. You can't hide from them."

Tennessee is 3-0 in the preseason.

Quarterback Jon Kitna threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Peter Warrick with 3:48 remaining in the second quarter. The score gave the Bengals their 7-6 lead.

The touchdown was the first in 10 preseason possessions with Kitna at quarterback. The first-team offense has three field goals and the touchdown so far.

Kitna was 12-for-17 passing for 106 yards and one interception.

Through three games, Kitna is 26-for-38 passing for 228 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

"Tonight is a classic example of what can't happen any more," Kitna said. "We can't get in our way any more."

But the Bengals gave up the lead on the next Tennessee drive.

McNair drove the Titans 80 yards on 11 plays, with 81 yards coming on pass plays. The Titans lost 1 yard rushing on the drive.

McNair, who was 13-for-17 passing for 167 yards, threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Shad Meier.

The Bengals scored their second touchdown late in the fourth quarter on a 20-yard pass from Shane Matthews to Lawrence Hamilton. The two-point conversion was good on a pass from Matthews to tight end Matt Schobel.

Rookie quarterback Carson Palmer played in the third quarter and was 3-for-5 passing for 22 yards and one interception, which came on his first snap of the third quarter. The Bengals' third turnover came on a fumbled punt by T.J. Houshmandzadeh in the third quarter.

The Bengals fell behind 3-0 despite an impressive first drive, in which they moved 60 yards on nine plays to the Titans' 15-yard line. But on second-and-4, tight end Tony Stewart dropped a perfect Kitna pass at the 5-yard line, and Titans cornerback Andre Dyson intercepted. The Titans converted the turnover into a field goal.

Lewis had dedicated additional practice time during training camp the past week on the running game, and it showed on the first drive. The Bengals had an 8-yard average on seven attempts. Warrick ran 27 yards on a reverse down to the Titans 21-yard line. Corey Dillon ran four times for 25 times and had 34 yards on seven carries in his most extensive workout of the preseason.

Neil Rackers missed his first field goal attempt of the season, from 49 yards.

Preseason review

Game 1Jets 28, Bengals 13
Game 2Bengals 23, Lions 10
Game 3Titans 23, Bengals 15
• The Bengals play at Indianapolis at 8 p.m. Friday.



Titans 23, Bengals 15
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