For most of the season, the Tennessee Titans defense had made a name for itself with its poor play – on a record pass for points allowed in a season with missed tackles and botched assignments being the unit's primary calling card.
Giving up 308 points in the first nine games doesn't lie.
And when Akeem Ayers missed the first tackle of the game on a swing pass by the Dolphins, it looked like Sunday would be just another exercise in futility.
But something changed Sunday, beginning with Jason McCourty's strip and fumble recovery that set up Tennessee's first touchdown at the Miami 28-yard line.
It would be the first of four turnovers forced by the Titans in Sunday's 37-3 rout, with the other three takeaways coming courtesy of linebackers Colin McCarthy, Akeem Ayers and Zach Brown. McCarthy's pick was even returned 49 yards for a touchdown.
“It was huge, we saw with the Bears defense last week, creating turnovers and giving the offense a short field, it just creates a lot of opportunities for the offense and gives the team a buzz,” McCourty said. “For us to be able to create a fumble and recover early in the game and then Colin (McCarthy) gets a pick six those are huge plays, momentum builders, so I’m just happy we were able to build off that today.”
For a unit that had forced only nine turnovers all year before Sunday, it was a welcome site.
“I think today we were playing how we know we can play. Everybody did what they were supposed to do,” said Ayers, who also tipped Ryan Tannehill's pass into McCarthy's arms. “We came out, we played hard from beginning to end. We pretty much had a good week of practice too, especially after the loss we had this week. We just made a dedication to ourselves that we were going to come out and do the right things and play hard and not worry about the outcome, just play and we’ll see what happens after the game.”
The McCarthy interception came just shortly after he re-aggravated his troublesome right ankle that has bothered him all season. But when when he saw open field after catching the batted ball, he knew he was going to score. Munchak said McCarthy is the Titans difference-maker on defense.
“He’s that kind of guy. People ask what have you missed. Well, he got hurt in the first quarter of the first game of the year. He’s one of those guys … the Bears have (Charles) Tillman that everyone bragged on for creating turnovers,” Coach Mike Munchak said. “(McCarthy’s) our guy that seems to have a knack for making fumbles and making plays … the interception for a pick-6 after he comes back from getting hurt. All three linebackers had interceptions, which was fun to see.... We saw what turnovers do. Our defense got four. We didn’t give up any. In a lot of areas we played some good football.”