Dolphins’ defense leads victory over Titans
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Miami Dolphins safety Reshad Jones was the cure.
The epidemic -- in football terms -- was a Dolphins offense that went 12 quarters without a non-garbage-time touchdown.
But with fans calling for the Dolphins to bench starting quarterback Jay Cutler in favor of backup Matt Moore, it was the defense in general and Jones in particular who made a play, scoring on a 38-yard fumble recovery.
Then with 10:33 left in the game, the Miami offense finally ended its drought.
Jarvis Landry caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from Cutler for the go-ahead touchdown to lead Miami to a 16-10 win over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday afternoon at Hard Rock Stadium.
The Dolphins improved to 2-2. The Titans, playing with quarterback Matt Cassel in place of injured starter Marcus Mariota, fell to 2-3.
“P--- poor,” Cutler said when asked about the offense. “We got the touchdown when we needed it, but everything leading up to that point was bad. There were a lot of problems.”
Cutler completed just 12 of 26 passes for 92 yards and one touchdown.
However, Miami’s defense started to change the momentum late in the first quarter when linebacker Kiko Alonso blitzed and caused Cassel to fumble just as he was about to throw.
Jones scooped up the ball and ran 38 yards for a touchdown. Thinking it was an incomplete pass, no one gave chase. And no referee ruled touchdown right away, either.
But after a video review, the touchdown was upheld and Jones -- who also had a sack that nearly went for a safety and another fumble recovery that led to three points -- had his game-changing play.
”I just kept playing,“ Jones said. ”I saw the ball on the ground ... and I ended up with a touchdown.
“That’s what good teams do. When the offense is not playing well, the defense has to pick up the slack.”
Tennessee, which lost 57-14 to the Houston Texas last week, got a much better defensive effort. But Cassel passed for just 141 yards and the running game produced only 69 yards on 20 carries.
“We have to run the ball better,” said Titans running back DeMarco Murray, who had 58 yards on 14 carries. “And we have to be more focused on the road.”
Murray’s fumble led Miami to a 3-0 lead with 57 seconds left in the first quarter on a 42-yard field goal by Cody Parkey. That fumble was forced by defensive tackle Davon Godchaux and recovered by Jones.
Tennessee appeared to take a 7-3 lead on a 59-yard pass from Cassel to tight end Delanie Walker. But the play was negated by an offensive pass interference call on tight end Jonnu Smith.
“I feel it was an extremely questionable call,” said Smith, who played his college ball locally at Florida International University. “I‘m not the ref. It’s his job.”
Two plays after the call on Smith is when Jones scored his touchdown, giving Miami a 10-0 lead.
Tennessee cut its deficit to 10-3 on a 45-yard second-quarter field goal by Ryan Succop. That score was set up by running back Jay Ajayi;s fumble fumble, which was forced by cornerback Adoree’ Jackson and recovered by safety Kevin Byard.
On their first third-quarter possession, the Titans tied the score at 10 on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Cassel to backup tight end Phillip Supernaw, who made an over-the-shoulder catch in the end zone.
After Landry’s go-ahead score, Parkey missed the point-after try wide right, giving the Titans a chance to win with a touchdown and a PAT. Tennessee, though, was forced to punt on its next drive and Miami hung on to win.
NOTES: Dolphins WR DeVante Parker (ankle) was hurt in the first quarter and didn’t return. ... Titans QB Marcus Mariota (hamstring) missed the game and reportedly could be out two to four weeks. ... Dolphins DT Jordan Phillips (ankle) missed his third straight game despite practicing fully on Friday and pronouncing himself healthy. ... Dolphins CB Byron Maxwell (hamstring) missed the game despite practicing fully on Friday. He has lost his starting job and is behind Cordrea Tankersley, Xavien Howard and Alterraun Verner at cornerback. ... Dolphins MLB Rey Maualuga (hamstring) missed the first three games, but moved into the starting lineup ahead of Mike Hull. ... Titans S Johnathan Cyprien (hamstring) was inactive. He played college ball at Miami’s FIU. ... Next Sunday, the Dolphins play at the Atlanta Falcons. The Titans return home to play host to the Indianapolis Colts on Monday Night Football Oct. 16.