If winning games were as easy as knocking opposing quarterbacks from the game, the Tennessee Titans would be the best team in the NFL. Unfortunately, the archaic National Football League still tallies wins and losses based on the final score. Advantage Miami Dolphins. Here is the Titan Sized Tirade from Week 10’s Miami meltdown.
The game could not have started much worse for the Titans. Kerry Collins’ finger was obviously in far worse condition than Jeff Fisher, Mike Heimerdinger, or any member of the Titan training staff were aware of prior to the game. This made finding new acquisition, Randy Moss, impossible. Chris Johnson and the Titan offensive line were more than a enough for the over-matched front seven of the Dolphins on their second drive, which resulted in a CJ 17-yard touchdown dash.
Bo Scaife’s early gift gave Chad Pennington a short field. Not short enough for Pennington to avoid a potentially career-ending injury, but short enough for an otherwise inept first quarter offense to punch in a 2-yard Ronnie Brown touchdown. Tony Sparano’s evil genius was slightly off early, sticking to a poor offensive gameplan (mostly running plays) and calling for a fake punt in Dolphin territory that fortunately only cost the Dolphins 3 points (Rob Bironas 40 yard field goal).
2nd Quarter (Momentum Dolphins)
The Titans started the second with a 3-and-out, a huge blunder, considering their starting field position was near midfield. In fact, all 3 of the Titan’s second quarter drives died around midfield, each more maddening the last. On one drive, CJ toted carries of 4 and 5 yards respectively. On the second carry, he lost his shoe and was forced to the sidelines for a critical 3rd and 1 yard. His replacement (Javon Ringer) was not up to the task of gathering the last yard. Bad play call or sad misfortune?
The Dolphins did little in the quarter, with the exception of capitalizing (Dan Carpenter – 23 yard field goal) on a 54-yard gadget play to Brian Hartline. With the score tied, the Dolphins only created one more play of significance before halftime. But that 31-yard completion to Anthony Fasano was all Dolphin offensive coordinator (Dan Henning) needed to see. The Titan weakness had been found, and the entire second-half game plan would revolve around this late discovery.
3rd Quarter (Momentum Titans)
The Dolphins started the second half with a well-constructed, 11 play, 74 yard drive and another Carpenter field goal (26 yards). Another Titan turnover deep in their own territory again handed the Dolphins a microscopic field to leverage another touchdown (Patrick Cobbs – 13 yard reception). The tables started to turn in the Titan’s favor after and culminated in the potentially season-ending injury of Chad Henne. But, the crafty Dolphins simply dusted off the Wildcat formation for the win.
After an entire half of futility, Fisher looked to Vince Young to bring life to the Titan offense to start the second half. Instead, all he gave the Titans were a near-interception, courtesy of a tipped pass and a lost fumble that gave the Dolphins the go-ahead touchdown. However, VY recovered nicely and captained an 11 play, 74 yard, drive that culminated in a 14-yard touchdown strike to Nate Washington.
Because Jeff Fisher likes to keep games close, Titan fans of the last 17 years know that every game will come down to a series of plays, or what I like to call the “Fisher Sequence.”
After the Titan touchdown, the Dolphin offense suffered their second injured quarterback. And because of a technicality in the NFL rule book, the Dolphins could not insert Tyler Thigpen into the game to finish the 3rd quarter or it would disqualify Chad Henne from returning (even in the event he was healthy).
After a terrible Brandon Marshall heave into quintuple Titan coverage, the Dolphins were left with no choice but to operate from the Wildcat formation in a critical 3rd and 10. The following two plays (the Dolphins actually only had to run one play to complete the 3rd quarter) resulted in Ricky Williams runs of 14 and 23 yards. These plays flipped the field, extended the drive into a field goal range (Carpenter 42-yard field goal), and killed the momentum of the Titans.
4th Quarter (Match Dolphins)
After the Dolphin field goal, the Titan offense was placed in a poor position to execute (playing from behind in the 4th). The Dolphin defense pinned their ears back and stacked the box hoping to pressure VY or pile up any CJ run at the line of scrimmage. The first drive of the 4th stalled, but ultimately made enough ground to put the Titan defense in position for a stop. When the defense failed, the final Titan drive was virtually meaningless and ended in an interception deep in the end zone.
Tyler Thigpen entered the game and armed with the late first half discovery, milked the Titan weakness (middle zone coverage) for 3 completions, 48 yards, and a touchdown that put this game in the history books. All in all, the Dolphin offense stalled in every facet except 3rd down conversions, helping them finish a game of keep away that iced the game.
FINAL: Titans 17 – Dolphins 29
This is a disappointing loss for the Titans, losers in two straight games. The win for the Dolphins built potential hope, but not now in the wake of a crushing home loss to the Chicago Bears. It is clear that had the Titans been given the benefit of facing Thigpen for an entire game, they could have pulled out another win. However, there is no excusing the play of the Titan defense and no discounting the grittiness of a gutsy Dolphin team, that I hope we will not be seeing anytime soon.