Tennessee 30, Cincinnati 24

Oct. 27, 2002 at 7:25 PM
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CINCINNATI, Oct. 27 (UPI) -- Cincinnati running back Corey Dillon was stopped just short of the goal line with 64 seconds remaining Sunday, allowing the Tennessee Titans to escape with a 30-24 victory over the Bengals.

The Bengals looked to be on the verge of avoiding their first 0-7 start since 1994 as they reached the Tennessee one.

On fourth and goal, Dillon took a handoff from quarterback Jon Kitna and plowed into the right side, where he stumbled over guard Matt O'Dwyer before being hit by a trio of Tennessee defenders. Dillon appeared to cross the goal line with the go-ahead score, but he was ruled down.

Dillon's frustration was evident.

"You saw it," Dillon said. "I could have walked in, walked in, walked in. It's just that simple. That hole was so fat. It was so big. I could have took my daughter and wife through there. I thought I got it. Before I even hit the ground, I thought I broke the plane.

"It's just our luck. They don't want to give us nothing. It's just that simple. The calls they called today were kind of horrific. We know that. We know that they're not going to give a call in our favor."

"When you see it, we had the hole," said Bengals embattled coach Dick LeBeau. "The guard pulling, he slipped and kind of got into Corey's feet a little so he couldn't vault in. He was going down so he reached the ball in. It was a judgement call whether he broke the plane before hitting (the ground)."

Titans coach Jeff Fisher agreed with the Bengals' play call.

"It was the right call," he said. "When Jon (Kitna) pulled the ball down and ran and got close, I got a little concerned. I don't think he got in but I wasn't watching the replay because I was working both scenarios."

A video replay failed to overturn the play, keeping the Bengals as the NFL's lone remaining winless team.

Kitna was convinced the call went against his club because of their reputation as a losing organization.

"Oh yeah. I mean that's the way things are," he said.

Steve McNair passed for three second-half touchdowns for the Titans (3-4), who have won consecutive games following a four-game losing streak.

"All week in preparation for this club we talked about their potential," Fisher said. "We talked about the things Corey Dillon is capable of doing and the effort we had to have on defense. Obviously, they showed their potential today. I'm proud of this club because we came back from trailing by 14 and scratched and clawed to get back."

Kitna threw two touchdown passes and Dillon ran for a score for Cincinnati, which had been outscored, 103-20 in its previous three home games.

With both teams coming off their bye week, the Bengals looked to be a different club in the first half while building a 14-6 lead.

Kitna gave the Bengals their first offensive touchdown of the season in the first quarter, hitting fullback Lorenzo Neal with a one-yard touchdown pass 3:59 into the contest. The score capped a seven-play, 71-yard drive.

After running back Eddie George lost a fumble deep in Bengals territory, Cincinnati's offensive went to work.

Kitna engineered a 10-play, 89-yard drive that Dillon capped with a four-yard run 1:20 into the second quarter, giving the Bengals a surprising 14-0 lead.

Dillon, who threatened to retire at the end of the season due to the Bengals' continued ineptness, rushed for 138 yards on 30 attempts.

Dillon won his battle with George, who had his second straight 100-yard game. George carried 21 times for 106 yards.

Joe Nedney kicked field goals of 33 and 28 yards in the second quarter, pulling the Titans within eight at the break.

The Bengals contained McNair in the first quarter as the Titans signal-caller went just seven of 15 for 57 yards.

But McNair came alive in a big way after intermission, throwing touchdown passes of 32 yards to Derrick Mason and 39 yards to Kevin Dyson in the first 6:11 of the third quarter.

After his slow start, McNair finished 16 of 27 for 215 yards and three touchdowns.

Despite the two quick strikes by McNair, the Bengals did fight back. Neil Rackers capped a seven-play, 51-yard drive with a 44-yard field goal with 5:10 left in the third quarter.

On their most impressive drive of the season, the Bengals embarked on a nine-play, 91-yard march later in the third quarter.

Kitna had three completions of at least 12 yards on the drive and Brandon Bennett had a 27-yard run to the Tennessee 25.

Kitna capped the drive 1:28 into the fourth quarter, finding tight end Matt Schobel with an eight-yard touchdown pass that gave the Bengals a 24-20 lead. Kitna had a mistake-free game, going 17 of 23 for 193 yards and two touchdowns.

But with a chance at securing their first win of the season, the Bengals watched their defense struggle in the final period.

After Kitna's touchdown pass, McNair led the Titans on seven-play, 58-yard drive that he capped with a 16-yard touchdown pass across the middle to Mason with 10:07 remaining.

Mason, who had missed the last two games with a separated shoulder, finished with seven catches for 98 yards. On the Bengals ensuing offensive possession, Bennett fumbled and backup cornerback Donald Mitchell recovered at the Cincinnati 31.

The Bengals stiffened, holding the Titans to a three-and-out. Nedney kicked a 46-yard field goal with 8:04 to play, making it 30-24.

Cincinnati tried for a dramtic win, using more than six minutes on the clock to move 67 yards to the Tennessee one, only to fall inches short when Dillon was stopped.

"The Bengals are not getting the breaks they need," McNair said. "Anytime you win, you'll take it but you can't win ugly all the time."

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