CINCINNATI – The ball hung in the air.
Cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson could have picked it off and returned it for a touchdown.
Or, he could have leveled Andy Dalton, who was reaching up for the ball on the trick play.
He did neither, whiffing on the play.
That's how it went all game long for the Tennessee Titans.
Dalton turned his first career reception into a touchdown on Sunday, and the Cincinnati Bengals stayed undefeated with a 33-7 victory over a team playing shortly after it got some sad news.
A few hours before kickoff, the Titans (1-2) learned that kicker Rob Bironas had died overnight in a one-car crash in Nashville. He'd been released in March after his ninth season with Tennessee.
"Our hearts go out to his family," said kicker Ryan Succop, who missed a pair of field goal attempts in the first half. "Obviously we have heavy hearts, particularly the guys that were close with him. We feel for them right now."
Tennessee tried to respond to the sad news with a solid showing.
Not even close.
"It was real tough, with him being on the team all those years," running back Shonn Greene said. "We had some of our motivation and energy to play for him. It didn't work out."
Everything went wrong for the Titans, who committed a safety for holding in the end zone on a punt, missed two field goal attempts, snapped the ball before Jake Locker was ready in shotgun formation, and whiffed on the game's defining play.
On the final play of the first quarter, Dalton flipped the ball to receiver Mohamed Sanu, who ran to his right while the quarterback sneaked toward the other side of the field.
Sanu stopped and threw a cross-field pass that hung in the air. Wreh-Wilson had a chance to pick it off or level the quarterback, who was reaching to catch the ball.
Wreh-Wilson did neither, lightly bumping Dalton as he ran by him. The quarterback made the catch and ran 18 yards, diving inside the pylon at the goal line to score. He was the first NFL quarterback to score on a catch since Kansas City's Tyler Thigpen in 2008.
"It's a sick situation for me," Wreh-Wilson said. "I saw the ball in the air, I should've made that play. I probably just should've taken a better angle and gone for the tackle."
What made it worse: The Titans had expected the play and practiced for it during the week. And it wasn't the only flub — there were plenty of those all-around.
"I'm a little upset with not performing even close to the way we're capable of," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "What's happening to us is when we have an opportunity to make a play, we're not making it. We're not making the catch. We're not making the tackle. We're not making the kick."
The Bengals (3-0) head into their bye week with their best start in eight years and a chance to get some of their many injured players healthy.
Dalton's threw his first interception — Cincinnati's first turnover of the season — with 44 seconds left before halftime. But Locker forced a throw into coverage in the end zone for an off-setting interception that left the Bengals with a 19-0 halftime lead.
The Bengals didn't have to do much in the second half other than let their defense finish it off. Dalton was 15 of 23 for 169 yards and wasn't sacked for the third straight game.
Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green, who missed most of the last game with an injured big right toe, started and had six catches for 102 yards. He also drew a pair of pass interference penalties from Wreh-Wilson.
Giovani Bernard had a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs. His dive with 1:58 left in the third quarter completed a 14-play, 80-yard drive that lasted 7 minutes, 18 seconds and finished off Tennessee.
The Titans repeatedly undercut drives with penalties. Locker was 17 of 34 for 185 yards with two interceptions, two sacks and a passer rating of 41.9. Succop missed field goal attempts of 40 and 44 yards in the first half, helping Cincinnati take control.
The Titans ended the shutout on Greene's 1-yard touchdown run with 6:09 to go.
Notes: Quentin Groves was called for holding Cedric Peerman in the end zone on the punt, resulting in a safety. ... The Bengals set a club record with their 11th straight regular season win at home. They lost at Paul Brown Stadium in the playoffs last season. ... Pro Bowl LB Vontaze Burfict was inactive because of two concussions in two weeks.
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