By Ron Wynn
Only one week after the worse home loss in team history the Tennessee Titans rebounded against the Miami Dolphins with their best game of the season. The Titans pounded Miami 37-3 Sunday. It was the Dolphins’ worse home loss since 1968, and overall biggest defeat anywhere since 2000.
Tennessee’s defense had been on pace to set an NFL record for points allowed, and came into Sunday’s game dead last in that category. But they prevented the Dolphins from scoring a touchdown, while all three linebackers had an interception. Despite battling an ankle injury, middle linebacker Colin McCarthy even returned his 49 yards for a touchdown.
“That was a huge win,” Titans coach Mike Munchak told Sports Illustrated. “It was exactly what we needed.” “We had folks, even our own families telling us how awful we were all week,” added wide receiver Nate Washington. “It was a matter of pride and wanting to go out and redeem ourselves after that awful effort last week.”
Titans QB Jake Locker made a successful return to the starting lineup after missing the last five games with a shoulder injury. Though his passing wasn’t sharp (only nine completions in 21 attempts for 122 yards) Locker had touchdown passes of nine yards to rookie Kendall Wright and 26 yards to tight end Jared Cook. He also ran for three key first downs and avoided any vicious hits that might have sidetracked him the rest of the season..
Dolphins rookie QB Ryan Tanehill had gone six weeks without an interception, and was being praised as the most unsung member of the first-year quarterback class. But he had a dreadful game, suffering three interceptions. The Dolphins had four turnovers, with running back Reggie Bush’s first quarter fumble earning him a long stretch on the bench. The Titans had no fumbles or interceptions, while they turned three of the takeaways into 20 points.
Titans’ running back Chris Johnson continued his resurgence as a primary offensive threat. Johnson gained 126 yards, becoming the first rusher to pass the century mark on the Dolphins’ defense in 23 games. Johnson also had a touchdown and has now enjoyed four 100-yard games in the past six. Rob Bironas extended his streak of successful extra points to 232, a team record. The Titans’ domination was so complete and thorough that the home crowd began departing in waves by halftime. By the fourth quarter it was down to family and friends in the Dolphins’ stadium.
“I really didn’t see any signs of this coming,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. “Obviously we have to do better, and it starts with me.” The few fans who chose to remain began booing heavily after the Titans jumped ahead by 18, and continued to do so in non-stop fashion throughout the second half.
The Titans’ also got another excellent game from punter Brett Kern. He had a 71-yard punt early that totally changed field position, and he had a hefty net average of 48 yards for the day. The Titans led 24-3 at halftime, and after the game responded to questions over whether the tirade of owner Bud Adams following the 51-28 loss to Chicago had made any difference.
“Obviously, we all heard it,” cornerback Jason McCourty told USA Today. “And you’d be crazy to say you don’t pay any attention to something like that being said. But even without Mr. Adams saying that, when you lose a game the way we did, something has to ignite in you. There has to be something that boils in you, that makes you want to go out there and make up for it. It was kind of like, enough is enough.”
“It wasn’t perfect,” added Locker. “But we talked about it before the game. Our goal wasn’t to come out and play perfect football, it was to play winning football.”
The Titans now have their bye week. They return to action with a road game against the Jacksonville Jaguars Nov. 25.