Before the Titans traveled to Florida, the pregame talk centered on two former college teammates at Marshall. What impact would Randy Moss have, and what could Chad Pennington do since being installed as the starter?
Well, as we all know now, Pennington lasted just two plays, and Moss caught just the one pass and had his sixth negative passing grade of the season. What was left was a display of the Dolphins capitalizing on turnovers, and quarterbacks going down like flies. Quite the day.
But there was more to the Dolphins’ victory than that. Let’s examine.
Titans: Three performances of note
This may have been the best performance of the season from Chris Johnson (+2.3). He’s still something of a liability in the passing game, but as a rusher he has a special ability to go through a hole that doesn’t seem to be there and turn it into a 20-plus yard gain in an instant. The only criticism you can give the Titans is that in giving Johnson 17 carries, they didn’t do enough to take advantage of the Dolphins. Opportunity missed.
It wasn’t a great day for either Titans safety. Michael Griffin (-1.3) didn’t make a single defensive stop, yet managed to miss two tackles, while Chris Hope (-2.9) was a relative non-factor despite playing the majority of snaps in the box. He walked away with no defensive stops and just three tackles (while missing another). Hope also noticeably had trouble covering the tight end, giving up 59 yards on two completions.
In better news, Stephen Tulloch (+4.3) had another really good game in run defense. He made four defensive stops, didn’t miss a tackle (has missed only four all year) and displays all the things you look for in a thumper-type linebacker. He’ll never be the greatest MLB in coverage, but in games like this, where the Dolphins don’t test that, you fully appreciate what he does in the run game.
Dolphins: Performances of note
Just another day for the league’s best left tackle, Jake Long (+3.7). With Miami noticeably keeping in fewer extra blockers and throwing the ball a fair amount, Long was in for perhaps more of a test than he sometimes is. His response? He didn’t allow a single pressure and graded positively for his run blocking. The Dolphins have to be happy having the best player in the league at his position on their team.
In three consecutive plays, FS Reshad Jones (+2.1) did enough to excite Miami fans and also set expectations of what he can do to such levels he’ll probably never be able to replicate. After breaking up a pass, Jones blitzed to cause a sack that forced a fourth-and-long. He then intercepted the ball to effectively ice the game. Chris Clemons (+0.6) wasn’t terrible, but it will be interesting to see if the Dolphins find more ways to get a promising playmaker like Jones onto the field.
If there was one performance that was slightly disappointing, it was that of Karlos Dansby (-3.3). Whether or not it was the speed of Johnson that caught him off guard, Dansby had a real tough time getting to the ball carrier, with 80 percent of his tackles coming after the Titans had essentially won the play. Throw in a missed tackle and you’ve got a downer day for the Miami free agent.
Alterraun Verner (+0.2) had a tough day in coverage (six receptions allowed for 90 yards and a touchdown). He did compensate somewhat by turning three blitzes into a hit and a pressure. … With Randy Moss in the lineup, Damian Williams (-0.2) saw little action and wasn’t targeted once. … Returner Marc Mariani (+1.0) averaged 23 yards per return.
For Miami, guard John Jerry (-1.3) was bound to struggle against Jason Jones and Co. a bit, walking away having surrendered four quarterback pressures. … Tight end Jeron Mastrud (-2.1) looks a bit overmatched at times when blocking (which, when you spend only six of 31 plays running routes, isn’t ideal). … Starting outside linebacker Koa Misi (-0.3) got no pressure but did manage to bat a pass. His impact is on the wane, it would appear.
When Chad Henne was in, he had the same old problems. When he was pressured he averaged just 1.8 yards per attempt when he wasn’t, 10 yards per attempt. … Jacob Ford didn’t make a single tackle but did manage to miss two. … Dolphins fans are going to like what they see in Tyler Thigpen. Starting for the Chiefs in 2008, he graded out almost identically to the Patriots’ Matt Cassel — not great, but good enough to keep his team in games.