Titans, wind blow by Bengals, 24-7

Published 12:59 pm Monday, September 15, 2008

The wind shrieked. The goal posts swayed and creaked. Food boxes and wrappers pummeled players struggling to keep their balance in the unrelenting gusts.

Kerry Collins couldn’t believe it.

Sure, there were times during his five seasons with the Giants that the Meadowlands turned into a wind tunnel. This was much more surreal — gusts that went one way and then another, turning each pass into a science experiment.

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Where will it go, and how many turns will it take before it gets there?

‘‘It was bordering on being impossible to throw the ball where you wanted to throw it,’’ said Collins, who somehow kept his touch in those near-impossible conditions Sunday, leading the Tennessee Titans to a 24-7 win over the winless, blown-away Bengals.

After getting sucked into the vortex of quarterback Vince Young’s drama all week, the Titans (2-0) found it easy to stay unfazed amid all the stuff swirling around them at Paul Brown Stadium. Collins’ amazing performance — one touchdown, no interceptions, not a single big mistake — helped them move on.

Young sprained his left knee in an opening win over Jacksonville, and the police searched for him a day later at the Titans’ urging because of questions about his mental state.

His mother even weighed in during the week, saying Young didn’t want to play anymore.

Would a distracted team show up? Running back LenDale White had the answer.

‘‘Did we win today?’’ he said. ‘‘It was no distraction. We miss Vince. He’s our quarterback and we love him to death. But we beat a good Jacksonville team, and now we came in here and we won. It’s two victories.’’

The Titans last started 2-0 in 1999, when they won their first three and reached their only Super Bowl. Young went down in the opener and stayed home while his 35-year-old backup, the one with the gray stubble on his chin, showed an uncanny mastery of the weather.

Unrelenting gusts topped 50 mph in the region. Debris flew across the field. Both teams were forced to scratch entire sections from their playbooks, scaling back in the elements.

Throw? Hah!

‘‘I don’t think we threw a pass in the fourth quarter because we couldn’t afford to,’’ Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. ‘‘Both offenses shrunk their game plans down and reduced them to virtually nothing.’’

Collins didn’t shrink from the challenge. He went 14-of-21 for 128 yards with his first touchdown pass in two years. His steadiness seemed to rub off on his teammates.

Rookie Chris Johnson ran for 109 yards, Rob Bironas kicked a 34-yard field goal through gyrating uprights, and linebacker Keith Bulluck finished it off by blocking a punt in the end zone and scooping up the ball for a touchdown.

Play by play, the Titans blew the Bengals away.

Not that it’s difficult to do lately. Cincinnati’s offense managed only 154 yards in an opening loss to the Ravens. Carson Palmer threw two interceptions and passed for only 127 yards against a Titans defense that had its toughest time dodging garbage.

‘‘I got hit with a piece of box and a pretzel wrapper flying around,’’ Bulluck said. ‘‘Everything was on the field. I guess their fans were a little mad about the performance that their team was doing. I would have been throwing things, too.’’

Off to their first 0-2 start since Marvin Lewis was a rookie head coach in 2003, the Bengals are having one of those back-to-the-future moments. Fans started booing after their first series ended in a punt, and left the stadium in disgust early in the fourth quarter.

Sure feels and sounds like the bad old days.

‘‘It’s hard to figure out,’’ receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh said. ‘‘I’m at a loss for words.’’