MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. - If you’re looking for a bright spot in the Sunshine State for the Tennessee Titans, you might want to look elsewhere after the 29-17 loss to the Miami Dolphins.
“You gotta give them credit, they executed the plays,” linebacker Stephen Tulloch said in the locker room. “Flea flickers, the Wildcat, they did what they had to do today and we didn’t. We gotta get better, practice harder.”
The Dolphins used up all three quarterbacks on the roster after starter Chad Pennington was knocked out after two plays in their first series with a shoulder injury. Enter Chad Henne, who has been the starter all year for Miami. Henne threw for 240 yards before leaving late in the third quarter with a knee injury.
That left Miami finishing with third-stringer Tyler Thigpen in the fourth quarter, and even Thigpen directed the Dolphins to nine points.
“There was one drive where we got Henne out of the game, and they came out and ran the Wildcat for maybe 40-something yards on that drive,” safety Michael Griffin said.
He was referring to the Dolphins using the final minute of the quarter to run the Wildcat exclusively with running back Ronnie Brown, before inserting Thigpen into the game to start the fourth quarter.
Uder NFL rules, if Thigpen - who was designated as the third quarterback - would have entered the game in the third quarter, then both Pennington and Henne are ruled ineligible for the remainder of the game. At the time, the Dolphins didn't want to risk losing Henne on the off chance he could return.
“We had maybe one player out of place, and after we got that player in place, that play was canceled," Griffin said. "That just goes back to execution in practice and studying more film. Really, I think we've just got to work harder in practice.”
This is the second time this season the Titans have seen a third-string quarterback finish the game against them. Back in Week 2 against Pittsburgh, with Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger serving a suspension, Dennis Dixon left the game with a knee injury. Charlie Batch led the Steelers to a victory in Nashville.
Aside from third-string quarterbacks, tight ends continue to be a ‘thorn in the side’ of the Titans defense, too.
After San Diego tight end Antonio Gates went for 123 yards receiving and a touchdown against the Titans, not much changed on Sunday. Dolphins tight end Anthony Fasano chewed up the defense with five catches for 107 yards and a touchdown.
“I think it was just a random act, it just happened to be his day,” defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil talking about Fasano. “It’s something we have to address and make sure we take care of.”
Added Coach Jeff Fisher, “We don't let tight ends go on purpose. We just had some people out of position, and they made plays.”
If you’re digging deep for something positive on defense, turn to playmaker Brandon Marshall being held to three catches for 34 yards by cornerback Cortland Finnegan.
“We didn’t really want to double him; we just wanted to play him man,” Finnegan said afterward. “He’s an elite receiver, but I felt like if we could keep him contained for most of the day, then we would give ourselves the best chance to win.”
Fisher said after the game that it is hard to beat good teams in the NFL, and that the Dolphins are a good football team.
I’m not sure I’m willing to go that far. Just like San Diego, for whatever reason, this team struggles in Miami losing six of their last seven trips to South Florida.
And on Sunday, there were plenty of struggles to go around.