Work in Sports
George rushes Titans to victory against Bengals
Right plan, right man.
George piled up 214 yards on his runs and catches -- one more yard than the Cincinnati Bengals managed as a team -- as the Titans ground out a 23-14 victory Sunday.
He ran left, right and up the middle a career-high 36 times, rushing for 181 yards in all -- the third-best total of his five-year career.
George also caught three passes for 33 yards as the Titans (4-1) held the ball for 41 minutes and overcame his fumble into the end zone in the first quarter that gave Cincinnati a glimmer of hope.
"We came out of sync a little after I fumbled," George said. "It took us a while to get back in the groove."
Once George got rolling, the Bengals (0-5) had no chance. They took a 14-10 halftime lead on two big plays: Corey Dillon's 80-yard touchdown run and Darryl Williams' 36-yard interception return for another score.
Other than that, they couldn't move the ball or stop George from churning out the yards at an average of 5 yards per carry.
"He's a powerful guy," said defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, 0-2 since taking over for Bruce Coslet as head coach. "He's the key to them being able to hammer away at us, and it's typical with a back like him that he gets more yards late in the game. We missed a lot of tackles."
Once George scored standing up on a 5-yard run to put the Titans ahead 17-14 midway through the third quarter, the Bengals never threatened with their inept offense.
Cincinnati managed only one first down on its first six possessions in the second half. Akili Smith was only 10-of-22 for 85 yards, and Dillon had just 15 yards on his other 14 carries, finishing with 95.
The Bengals have been shut out twice and scored only 37 points in five games, the worst season-opening stretch in franchise history.
"I'm running out of things to say," Dillon said. "All the work we're doing has to start paying off."
George picked up 125 yards in a victory against the New York Giants last Sunday and was the focal point of the Titans' injury-depleted offense. Receivers Carl Pickens and Yancey Thigpen were inactive because of strained hamstrings and offensive tackle Brad Hopkins was out with a sprained ankle.
The situation got more desperate when guard Bruce Matthews sprained his right knee in the second quarter and didn't return. Second-year backup Zach Piller took over and helped clear the way for George.
Matthews has never missed a game because of injury during his 18-year career, starting 202 in a row -- the longest active streak in the league. He was optimistic he could keep the streak going next Monday night against Jacksonville.
Watching from the sideline, Matthews was impressed by the way the banged-up offense took control, giving the Titans a 2-1 advantage in total yards and time of possession.
"If you eliminate the turnovers, that's very close to our ideal game," he said.
It wasn't ideal early. Cincinnati got pushed around but went ahead 14-10 with two big plays and several Tennessee blunders.
There was another gaffe later in the first quarter, when George was hit by Williams at the 2 and fumbled into the end zone, where the Bengals recovered.
Dillon, who rushed for an NFL rookie-record 246 yards against Tennessee in 1997, then broke off his longest career run to put Cincinnati ahead.
McNair threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Mason, then made a huge mistake of his own. He locked onto Frank Wycheck, and Williams saw it, cutting in front for an interception and 36-yard touchdown return.
"That's the dangerous part of playing a team like that -- you make mistakes early and keep 'em breathing," said Wycheck, who had season highs with seven catches for 68 yards. "It's a team we should have beat and we found a way to win."
Notes: George, from Ohio State, has rushed for 884 yards in nine games against Cincinnati, his best total against any team. He has five 100-yard games against the Bengals -- only Jerome Bettis (7) and Earl Campbell (6) have more. ... McNair is 6-1 as a starter against the Bengals with 12 TD passes and two interceptions. ... For the second time in three games at Paul Brown Stadium, the Bengals failed to sell out. Fans unfurled several banners criticizing general manager Mike Brown before the game, but security quickly removed them. ... Dillon moved into third place on the Bengals' career rushing list with 3,746, passing Harold Green.