- Jay Morrison Staff Writer
The Cincinnati Bengals are 8-22 when playing against one of their former head coaches, and the man the team will be scheming against Sunday in Tennessee has been a part of 18 of those losses.
Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau was 12-33 in two-plus seasons as Bengals head coach before the team brought in Marvin Lewis in 2003.
LeBeau beat the Bengals as an assistant head coach in Buffalo in Lewis’ first season, and as defensive coordinator in Pittsburgh from 2004-14, his Steelers won 17 of 23 meetings, including the 2005 AFC Wild Card game.
Sunday will mark the first time the 80-year-old LeBeau, who is in his 45th year as an NFL coach, has faced the Bengals since joining the Tennessee staff in 2015.
Running the same zone-blitz scheme he mastered in Pittsburgh, LeBeau has the Titans defense ranked in the top 10 in rushing average (fourth), yards per play (ninth) and third-down efficiency (tied for ninth), all of which are big reasons why the team is 5-3 and tied for first with Jacksonville in the AFC South Division.
The group is led four-time Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Orapko, two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jurrell Casey and second-year safety Kevin Byard, who leads the NFL with six interceptions.
Since an embarrassing 57-14 loss at Houston on Oct. 1, LeBeau’s defense has regrouped and is allowing just 16.8 points and 275 yards per game and riding a three-game winning streak.
Tennessee will be looking for its first four-game streak since 2009, when the team rebounded from an 0-6 start to string together five consecutive victories.
Offensively the Titans have been more successful running the ball than throwing it despite the presence of Marcus Mariota, the No. 2 overall pick in 2015, at quarterback. Part of that is due to the fact that Mariota, who has six touchdown passes and five interceptions, is recovering from a hamstring injury suffered in the Week 4 loss at Houston.
Tennessee ranks 10th in rushing offense (117.9) and 27th in passing offense (199.9). The Titans feature a two-headed ground attack in which both backs, DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, average more than 4.0 yards per carry.
Murray has 391 yards and a 4.1 average, while Henry has 357 at a 4.3 clip.
Mariota’s top target in the passing game is tight end Delanie Walker with 37 catches, although wide receiver Rishard Matthews leads the team in receiving yards (463) and is tied with rookie tight end Jonnu Smith for the team lead with two receiving touchdowns.
Titans assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau was a Bengals assistant coach from 1980-91 and ’97-2000, and was Bengals head coach from Game 4 of ’00-02. He also played at Ohio State … Bengals cornerback Adam Jones entered the NFL as a first-round draft choice (sixth overall) of the Titans in 2005 and was with the team through the 2007 season. … Bengals wide receiver Josh Malone is from Gallatin, Tenn. (Station Camp High School), and played at the University of Tennessee. … Titans guard Josh Kline is from Mason (Mason High School). … Bengals defensive line coach Jacob Burney is from Chattanooga, Tenn., played at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and coached at the University of Tennessee in 1993. … Bengals secondary coach Robert Livingston coached at Vanderbilt University in 2011. … Titans assistant special teams coach Craig Aukerman coached at Miami University (’01-02). … Titans defensive assistant Brandon Blaney coached at Ohio State in 2001. … Titans assistant defensive line coach Keith Willis coached at the University of Cincinnati from 1999 2000.
Baltimore (4-5) on bye: The Ravens fell 23-20 at Tennessee on Sunday for their third loss in four games.
Cleveland (0-8) at Detroit (4-4) on Sunday afternoon: The Browns will try again to secure their first win of the season, but to do so they will need to snap a 16-game road losing streak dating back to 2015, and do it in a city where they haven’t won since 1983 and are 1-9 all time.
Pittsburgh (6-2) at Indianapolis (3-6) on Sunday afternoon: The rested Steelers come off their bye week looking to further strengthen their hold on the division lead against a struggling Colts squad.