NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Titans now know what they’re capable of when they’re not making mistakes.
Ryan Tannehill threw for 240 yards and a touchdown and the Titans rebounded from the franchise’s worst offensive performance in 49 years by routing the Cincinnati Bengals 27-3 Sunday.
The Titans (2-2) managed only 94 yards in losing last week in Cleveland, and they bounced back strongly. They scored 27 unanswered points and led 24-3 at halftime, giving coach Mike Vrabel his first win in four tries against Cincinnati.
“No doubt we’re growing,” Tannehill said. “I’m proud of our guys, the way we responded … Fought through the noise and were able to come out, play well up front. Our guys up front did a good job in the run game and in the pass game creating some space for the running backs and then giving me some time.”
Derrick Henry ran 29 yards for a touchdown, and he also found rookie tight end Josh Whyle for a 2-yard TD on a jump pass from the wildcat just before halftime.
“Peyton Manning had to show up again,” Henry said to laughter. “Well I was just thankful that it worked, and it’s kind of cool to be able to throw Josh his first NFL touchdown.”
Henry, held to just 20 yards rushing last week, finished with 122 yards on 22 carries. The Titans outgained Cincinnati 400-211 with 173 coming on the ground.
“They did a great job,” Vrabel said of his Titans.
Tennessee played without a pair of offensive starters with left guard Peter Skoronski missing his third game recovering from an appendectomy, and wide receiver Treylon Burks out with an injured left knee. It didn’t matter as Tennessee sacked Joe Burrow three times and stripped him of the ball.
Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor said nothing was good enough as the Bengals dropped to 1-3. Taylor also dodged a question on how Burrow is playing after throwing for 165 yards.
“We’ve just got to be better,” Taylor said. “Play calls have got to be better. We’ve got to put ourselves in better positions, that starts with me. And, you know, when a number’s called, guys have got to step up and make some plays.”
The Bengals had won seven of the past nine between these old AFC Central rivals.
“Those guys had our numbers the past few years, so good to get on the right side of that,” Tannehill said.
Cincinnati won the toss and took the ball, and Burrow worked mostly out of the shotgun throwing lots of quick, short passes after practicing fully all week with his sore calf. The Bengals settled for a 21-yard field goal by Evan McPherson after having first-and-goal from the Titans 10.
A sequence in the third quarter summed up Cincinnati’s offensive struggles.
Linebacker Trevis Gipson stripped Burrow of the ball in the third quarter and safety Kevin Byard recovered. The defense went to the end zone and celebrated while officials switched and announced Tennessee recovered the ball and not the Bengals.
“Obviously disappointing today,” Burrow said. “We’ve got a lot to get fixed.”
The Bengals remain one of two NFL teams not to score a first-half TD this season. The Giants have a chance to end that Monday night when they host Seattle.
Nick Folk capped Tennessee’s opening drive with a 53-yard field goal. The Titans scored 21 points to take control in the second quarter.
Tannehill connected with DeAndre Hopkins on their longest pass since the three-time All-Pro signed with the Titans, a 38-yarder on third-and-7. Tannehill hit his next two passes, the second a 13-yard TD to Nick Westbrook-Ikhine for a 10-3 lead capping a 78-yard drive.
Moving on up
Henry ran for 5 yards on the second play of the third quarter, giving him 77 yards and passing Pro Football Hall of Fame running back and 1979 NFL MVP Earl Campbell (8,574) for second on the franchise career rushing list. Henry trails only Eddie George (10,009) in that category.
“To be mentioned with a name that I heard so often over the years it’s just a surreal moment for me,” Henry said of passing Campbell. “I’m thankful. God is good.”
His TD pass was the fourth of Henry’s career. Henry also became the sixth player in NFL history with at least 8,000 yards rushing and 80 rushing TDs in his first eight seasons.
The Titans opened the third quarter with a 15-play drive that ended in Folk’s second field goal. But they held the ball for 10 minutes, 22 seconds for the franchise’s longest scoring drive since Oct. 26, 2003, against Jacksonville.
“It wasn’t the prettiest 10-minute drive, but it certainly was very effective,” Vrabel said.
Cincinnati WR Tee Higgins did not play in the second half because of injured ribs. The native of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, finished with two catches for 19 yards. Starting CB Cam Taylor-Britt was ruled out after being evaluated for a concussion.
Whyle hurt an ankle and didn’t return for Tennessee.
The Bengals finish a two-game road swing, visiting Arizona.
The Titans visit Indianapolis for their first AFC South game.