Bengals' upset of Titans can provide foundation for rebuild under Joe Burrow

CINCINNATI -- For weeks, signs of unrest swirled around the Cincinnati Bengals.

On an equally blustery day at Paul Brown Stadium, the Bengals picked up the type of win they can use for the foundation of their rebuild with rookie quarterback Joe Burrow.

Cincinnati was dominant on both sides of the ball and toppled the Tennessee Titans 31-20 on Sunday to snap a three-game losing streak heading into the Bengals’ off week.

But more importantly, it was a much-needed salve for a franchise dealing with a lot of public turmoil recently.

Four days before Sunday’s game, Cincinnati finally traded veteran defensive end Carlos Dunlap, whose rift with the coaching staff culminated in a sideline blowup at the end of a 37-34 loss to the Browns in Week 7. A couple of days later, wide receiver John Ross confirmed his trade desires after it was clear Cincinnati had no room for him in its rotation.

And against the Titans (5-2), the AFC South leaders coming into Sunday, a big loss could have further agitated things in Cincinnati.

Instead, Cincinnati beat a team with a winning record for the first time under second-year coach Zac Taylor and played well despite a slew of injuries and going without all five of its Week 1 starting offensive linemen.

Burrow was 26-of-37 for 249 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions and was steady even without his starting offensive line and top running back Joe Mixon.

Sunday’s win was exactly what the Bengals (2-5-1) needed to quell the unrest for at least one more week. And if Cincinnati can build on this win, it could be exactly what it needs to gain some long-term momentum to set the foundation of the Burrow era.

Describe the game in two words: Complete performance. A successful offense coupled with a defense that was effective early gave the Bengals enough cushion to hang on for the best win in Taylor’s coaching tenure.

QB breakdown: Once again, Burrow turned in an impressive performance. He showed great poise, was able to extend plays and made good decisions all afternoon. The rookie’s top highlight came in the first quarter on third-and-5, when he scrambled to extend the play and lofted a pass to fellow rookie Tee Higgins for a 24-yard gain. It encapsulated everything that Cincinnati loves about Burrow and shows the upside he brings the franchise.

Buy a breakout performance: Bengals wide receiver Auden Tate easily had his best game of the season and showed why he will merit more offensive snaps and targets moving forward. Tate caught all seven of his targets for 65 yards, including a 15-yard grab at the end of the game that showed off his catch radius. Tate made a strong case for more playing time in future games.