The Titans travelled to Miami with high hopes of getting back on track against a Dolphins team that couldn't score. However, the Titans proved that they still had a hangover from the Texans game, losing to the Dolphins 16-10. This game more than any in recent history showed how much the Titans depend upon a healthy Mariota.
Not only did Matt Cassel only produce 141 yards pass on 21 completions, he certainly wasn't a threat to run the ball. When he did appear he might take off and run the Dolphins defense pounced on the aging veteran to prove to him and the rest of us that he is no Mariota. He did throw for an improbable TD to Supernaw, but on another drive fumbled the ball away for a Dolphins TD. I will say that the offensive line had a lackluster performance partly due to the absence of Taylor Lewan for most of the game. However, Cassel looked like he had happy feet most of the game and his arm looked dead on several of his throws. Mariota also brings a quiet confidence to the huddle that exudes to the rest of the offense, and Cassel obviously doesn't contain this attribute.
The Titans had an unusual amount of penalties in the game (11-77 yards), with many coming at crucial times. However, I cannot fault TE Jonnu Smith on the offensive pass interference call against him that took a TD off the board. In reviewing the replay there isn't a single person (other than Dolphins' fans) that would say that was OPI. However, this inopportune misfortune was the start of events that created a 14 point swing, with the Dolphins returning the aforementioned fumble for the TD two plays later. Smith was called for 3 penalties for 25 yards, Lewan - 3 for a total of 5 yards (2 were declined), Cassel - 3 delay of game penalties, Supernaw - 2 comical back-to-back false start penalties that ended in a TD catch, and Weems - 2 penalties for 15 yards. This team were not mentally in this game and it showed.
The defense only allowed 10 points and 3 of those came on a short field when DeMarco Murray fumbled deep in Titans' territory. The defense was able to force 2 turnovers of their own, a fumble recovery by Byard (forced by Jackson) and an interception by Smith. However, the team was only able to gather one sack (Casey), but did harass Cutler for most of the game. They only allowed a total of 178 yards on the day, and seemed to clean up many of the issues from the previous week.
Although my prediction of a special teams touchdown didn't happen, there was plenty of praise to go around for them. Brett Kern is having a Pro Bowl year. He had 10 punts with a net average of 50 yards! Kicking from his own end zone, he had one punt that travelled around 71 yards and pushed the Dolphins back into their side of the field. Also, Ryan Succop had a record setting day, tying the NFL record for most consecutive FGs under 50 yards (46). Unfortunately, the return game didn't have a real chance to get going in this game which could have easily made the difference for the Titans.
- Although Eric Decker only caught 4 balls for 34 yards, he was the leading receiver for the day. He also showed that he is starting to settle into the Titans offense nicely.
- Kevin Byard's 2 takeaway in as many games proves he has a knack for being near the ball at the right time. I expect to see more takeaways coming his way soon.
Although this loss hurts more because it was a very winnable game, the Titans can get going in the right direction again with a win Monday night against a division foe in the Colts. This team has a real chance to catch the Colts at the right time without Andrew Luck and go 2-1 in the AFC South. However, there is one huge question that is still lingering in my mind that just might frame this season... With all the lingering, apparently minor injuries that are keeping players out of the lineup week after week, are the Titans too soft?