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5 keys to beating the Titans

How can the Bengals go into the bye on a high note?

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

This Bengals team is hungry for a win against a quality opponent.

If they can pull off the win against the Titans, it would give them a huge confidence boost prior to the bye week.

What do they need to do to pull off the win against Tennessee?

Protect the franchise

It’s no secret that Joe Burrow has taken far too many hits this season.

The Titans have an impressive defensive front, with pass rushers like Vic Beasley and Harold Landry, but the guy to watch out for is defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons. He leads the Titans in sacks with two on the season and rushes from the interior; a position that the Bengals have issues protecting against this season.

Of course injuries to the Bengals offensive line have made the edge rush a larger concern. Right tackle Bobby Hart is officially out, and will be replaced by second-year player Fred Johnson. This will be the fourth career start for Johnson, who has also started games at left tackle and right guard. Johnson has showed excellent potential but has technique breakdowns that get him into trouble at times.

Jonah Williams will also be out and will be replaced by rookie sixth-round pick Hakeem Adeniji. Adeniji was one of my favorite tackles in the draft and received a lot of love from Bengals Radio Analyst Dave Lapham for his performance in training camp, but I don’t think either one of us was expecting him to get his chance this season. Adeniji has huge potential and was an absolute steal in the sixth round. Hopefully he is ready to showoff his skill set this Sunday.

The Bengals will also have Billy Price starting at center. Price looked very good in relief of Trey Hopkins last Sunday and will need to keep up the good work this week.

Tackle

Now we go from offensive tackles to defensive tackling.

The Bengals’ defense has quietly gotten better and better against the run every week and last week they held the Browns to 3.7 yards per carry. Their efforts in regards to tackling, however, is still inconsistent and now Derrick Henry is coming to town.

They cannot allow Henry to break long runs by breaking tackles. Plain and simple.

Win the turnover game

This is a matchup between perhaps the two best ball-hawking free safeties in the league in Jessie Bates III and Kevin Byard.

Of course, it is Logan Wilson who leads the Bengals with two interceptions this season. Bates has one and the Bengals have a total of seven this season.

The Titans have nine total interceptions this season, but Byard does not have any.

Burrow has been pretty smart with the ball as the season has gone on, but fumbling is a concern as the young signal caller is always trying to make a play.

The Bengals cannot afford to give the ball away offensively and the defense must create opportunities for Burrow and the offense.

Win the Red Zone

Over the course of the season the Bengals have been one of the worst offenses in the league in terms of Red Zone scoring, but in recent weeks they have shown marked improvement.

Still, they are only in the middle-of-the-pack in this category over the last few weeks. They need to be 100% in this category. They cannot afford to put together a good drive and come away less than seven points.

The defense on the other hand has not shown any improvement in this area. When the field tightens up in the red zone, the Bengals need to be able to step up and keep the Titans out of the end zone.

Titans kicker Stephen Gostkowski has made only two-thirds of his field goal attempts from the 39 yards or less this season. If the Bengals can come up with a sack and push the Titans out behind the 23 yard line, they are in even better shape. Gostkowski has made only one of five field goal attempts from 40-49 yards.

Make the Play

Simply stated, but not simply done.

When you lose games by one score, it comes down to one play. If one play had gone differently you could have won the game, but it’s not one specific play

Slot cornerback Mackensie Alexander almost had a sack on the last drive of the Browns game a week ago. If he had been able to tackle Baker Mayfield, the clock would have been rolling and the Browns, without a timeout, would have had a big problem on their hands.

While this play stands out, there are a half-dozen or more others that could have easily impacted the outcome of the game.

You could say the same thing about any one-score loss.

The Bengals need to step up and make these plays to win the game.