By Abraham Gutierrez
Led by a stoic defensive performance, the Miami Dolphins outlasted the short-handed Tennessee Titans Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium by a final score of 16-10. The win improves Miami’s record to 2-2 on the season, while Tennessee drops to 2-3.
It was the first time the Dolphins have had the opportunity to play in front of its home crowd, and the players certainly felt the love.
“It feels good to be home, home opener, better late than never,” said Cameron Wake (4 tackles, 0.5 sacks) as he walked off the field. “We did it for you guys, Fins up.”
Offensively, this was yet another cringe-worthy effort from quarterback Jay Cutler (12-26, 92 yards, TD, INT, 52.1 QBR) and Miami’s offensive line. And, while most of the crowd wanted to see Cutler on the bench, the veteran signal-caller wasn’t to blame for most of the early mishaps.
“If guys do what they’re supposed to do, we’ll be alright,” Gase said. “If guys keep not doing the right things—getting beat, not catching the ball, fumbling the ball, it’s not going to work.”
As a unit, Miami’s offense tallied 12 first downs (7 passing, 5 rushing) and an anemic 178 yards (100 rushing yards, 78 passing yards) of total offense. The one category where Miami showed significant improvements from last week was on third-down situations, where the Fins went 5-for-15.
Offensive Week 5 standouts include wide receiver Jarvis Landry (5 receptions, 44 yards, TD) and running back Jay Ajayi (25 rushes, 77 yards). Even though Miami lost the time-of-possession battle, it was much more manageable than it has been all season, being bested 30 minutes and 11 seconds to the Dolphins’ 29:49.
Defensively, this unit was not only strategically prepared for the home opener, but they were also motivated to protect the house. As a team, Miami’s resistance allowed 14 first downs (9 passing, 3 rushing, 2 penalties) and only 188 yards (119 passing yards, 69 rushing yards) of total offense.
One of the keys to Miami’s dominance on this side of the ball was their ability to stop the Titans on third down. Converting just 2 of their 13 opportunities, Tennessee struggled to move the sticks with starting quarterback Marcus Mariota sidelined and Matt Cassel (21-32, 141 yards, TD, fumble, 85.5 QBR) starting.
As far as defensive standouts are concerned, it’s worth noting that safety Reshad Jones (7 tackles, 0.5 sacks, fumble recovery, TD) got the Fins into pay-dirt in the opening stanza with a 38-yard touchdown off of a Cassel fumble.
It would be impossible to talk about the Dolphins defense without mentioning the effort put forth by linebacker Kiko Alonso (7 tackles, 1.0 sacks, pass defended) as well as the play of defensive end Andre Branch (2 tackles, 2.0 sacks).
Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (1 tackle, 1.0 sacks) was also a force this afternoon, while defensive end Cameron Wake got on the board with four tackles and a half-sack as Miami dumped Cassel a total of six times (Charles Harris had the other Fins sack).
Special Teams: A-
In a game where field-positioning is so crucial, Dolphins punter Matt Haack was golden, finishing the game with 9 punts for an average of 51 yards per boot, five nicely-placed punts inside the Titans’ 20-yard line and a booming long of 62 yards.
After connecting on a 41-yard field goal that put Miami on the board first, rookie kicker Cody Parkey (1-for-1 on field goals, 1-for-2 in PATs, 4 points) spoiled this unit’s chances of a perfect A+ grade. Missing his second extra-point of the season, the Fins were lucky in keeping the Titans out of the end zone, as that missed PAT could’ve turned out to be disastrous.
From a coaching standpoint, Miami fans are becoming a bit annoyed with Gase’s reluctance to give back-up quarterback Matt Moore a chance. In fact, there were several instances during the game where the offense was loudly booed coming off the field.
After being serenaded with chants of “We want [Matt] Moore” all afternoon long, the Fins second-year head coach put that conversation to bed an end when he met with media members in his post-game presser.
“I will make the decision on the quarterback,” said Gase. “We are not going to take public polls.”
Up Next: Dolphins close out short home stand with visit from Falcons
Coming off their bye week, Matt Ryan and the (3-1) Atlanta Falcons will be in town to take on the Dolphins in Week 6.Mercedes-Benz Stadium will serve as the backdrop for next Sunday’s inter-conference struggle. Opening kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET and it will be broadcast live on CBS Sports.