There was a point—I don’t know when exactly—in the second half where, to quote Disney’s Beauty And The Beast “something changed.” It would be nice, from a narrative point of view, if it were a highlight reel moment. The spectacular third down catch by A.J. Green, for example, that was so preposterous that two Titans collided head-first Tom and Jerry–style and had to leave the field; when Nate Clements stripped Jared Cook (I always feel awkward with that phrasing); or perhaps when Carlos Dunlap became enraged at his defensive touchdown being over-ruled (a score which, by the way, would have put him at third on our scorers list after A.J. Green and Jermaine Gresham) and repeatedly took out his anger on the innocent Matt Hasselbeck.
I suspect, however, that it was when Geno Atkins foolishly roughed the passer after the Titans failed to convert a promising third down in mid-field. Instead of capitulating, allowing the frustration of their good work being undone to boil over, the defense simply did what it did the entire second half: it took care of business. Three and out went Tennessee and they never really threatened again. I guess the reason that this is difficult, from a narrative point of view, is that it wasn’t a player moment. It was a team effort. Which, frankly, seems to sum up this bunch pretty nicely.
The Titans, of course, are no pushover. It should not be taken as a slight on the good people of Nashville that their football team is named for a group of soulless, baby-murdering cannibals famous for losing (though should they ever play the Gettysburg Gods, history will certainly be against them). They have potentially the deadliest weapon in the NFL: Chris Johnson, who increasingly looks like an extra from Pirates Of The Caribbean and is paid roughly the budget of those movies, even if this year he’s been running with all the passion and sincerity of a Stevie Williams apology. And was it me, or did the referee have a certain Tennessee-esque lilt to his voice when announcing his decisions?
Either way, whilst we took control early thanks to first NFL touchdown from Colin Cochart (whose name is a lot easier to spell than pronounce if CBS is anything to go by) and several slapped down passes by Brandon Johnson and Michael Johnson, our twin windmills (or “twindmills” as I shall now be referring to them). However by half-time Tennessee had marched into a 17-7 lead with the sort of solid mediocrity that will put you in play-off contention if Blaine Gabbert isn’t the worst quarterback in your division. A ludicrously good defensive effort, matched with Dalton’s steady leadership (three scores, no interceptions) and Green’s gymnastic abilities completely turned things around as if they’d really only been teasing us in the first half. Caldwell and Simpson grabbed the touchdowns and we held steady for a 24-17 victory. On the road. Our fifth in a row. I think I’m having heart palpitations. If I had one quibble it would still be with Rome Simpson’s “first down celebration”; if you’ve just scored a game-winning touchdown then celebrate all you want. But if you’re losing, and you’ve dropped your previous three passes, and this catch only brought us to our own 30 yard line…then you don’t need to celebrate, any more than a bus-driver needs to celebrate each time he arrives at the next bus stop. Save it for the big ones, big guy. Then we’ll all be happy to see it.
Final Score: Bengals 24, Titans 17.