MIAMI GARDENS (CBSMiami/AP) — The Miami Dolphins are hoping to play better at their newly upgraded Hard Rock Stadium as they begin an NFL-record homestand.
Tennessee visits Sunday, the first of four consecutive games in Miami Gardens. There’s a bye after the third game, meaning Miami won’t play on the road again until Nov. 13.
That’s 46 days between away games, a record, and an ideal time for a turnaround.
But the Dolphins haven’t exactly dominated in recent years at home, going 12-12 since 2013. That includes an overtime victory against woeful Cleveland in Week 3 for the Dolphins’ lone win this season. They’re 0-3 on the road.
“Obviously 17-0 is out the window,” receiver Jarvis Landry said. “Yes, we have four home games and a bye mixed up in there somewhere. But we’re not looking ahead; we’re not looking back. We’re looking at the Tennessee Titans.”
Here are things to know about the matchup between 1-3 teams:
PLAYING AT HOME: Hurricane Matthew raised concerns about the NFL being forced to move the game to Nashville. But first-year Miami coach Adam Gase is eager to create a home-field advantage and ratchet up the atmosphere for fans who haven’t had a lot to cheer about during the Dolphins’ seven-season playoff drought.
The home opener against Cleveland was a sellout, but many fans fled for the exits during the latter stages of an ugly win.
“I felt like last game the crowd was great,” Gase said. “They were very energetic, especially when our defense was on the field. It got loud quite a bit. We have to put out a better product than we showed the last time. That’s what this season is going to be about for us. We’ve got to keep getting better every week. If we do that, I think that the crowd will keep getting louder and louder and louder.”
MIAMI FRONT FOUR: The Dolphins’ pass rush was expected to be a strength, but they’re tied for ninth with 10 sacks, as former Pro Bowl ends Mario Williams and Cameron Wake have only one sack apiece.
Miami has forced just one interception while allowing a passer rating of 98.4, which is ninth worst. Opponents have countered the rush with lots of three-step drops.
“We’ve got to try to find a way to stop the quick throws — tighter coverage, or us getting our hands up, or whatever,” Williams said. “We’ve got to figure something out, because it is more often than not quick passes so far.”
Quarterback Marcus Mariota and the Titans are likely to try the same approach, mindful of the importance in neutralizing a group that also includes Pro Bowl tackle Ndamukong Suh.
“Those guys, when they’re in a one-on-one matchup, that’s when they make their money,” Titans center Ben Jones said. “They’ve got five good rushers. Suh, Wake, Mario — they can get after the passer any time. You have to know where they are and get up on them.”
RUN DEMARCO RUN: Titans running back DeMarco Murray is looking like the player who led the NFL with 1,845 yards rushing in 2014 with Dallas. Murray already has 340 yards rushing and 496 yards from scrimmage, and his five total touchdowns tie him for second in the NFL. Murray also has 25 first downs, second only to Dallas running back Ezekial Elliott.
Combined with Mariota, that’s why the Titans rank fourth in the NFL, averaging 127 yards rushing per game.
ROAD MARIOTA: Mariota is coming off a poor performance in last week’s 27-20 loss at Houston.
Mariota threw for only 202 yards with a passer rating of 54.1. But since entering the NFL, Mariota has been one of the league’s best away from home. In eight games, he has thrown for 1,814 yards with 12 touchdowns and only three interceptions, with one of those last week. He has a 98.5 passer rating that puts him behind only Josh McCown, Russell Wilson, Andy Dalton, Tom Brady and Derek Carr on the road.
TRASH TALK: Wake will butt heads with Titans tackles Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin, and offered a candid assessment of them.
“They’re big, they’re slow and they’re ugly, just like most of the ones we have here,” Wake said. “Us fast, pretty guys like to take advantage of them.”
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