Dolphins Watch

November 13, 2010 2:54 PM

Dolphins Seek Redemption Against Titans

CJ.bmpA year ago, Tennessee put Miami's playoff hopes on life support with a 27-24 overtime victory.

If you remember, the Dolphins actually trailed 24-6 entering the fourth quarter, before mounting a furious comeback that saw them tie the game.

But, as has been the case too often this season, Chad Henne threw a costly interception in OT, leading to Rob Bironas' game-winning 46-yard field goal.

The teams reunite Sunday -- this time in Miami -- but still with much on the line. The Titans are 5-3 and in playoff position, tied atop the AFC South with the Colts. The Dolphins are 4-4 and fighting to stay in the playoff race at the season's midway point.

Henne is gone after throwing three interceptions in last week's 26-10 loss to Baltimore. Chad Pennington returns, in his first start since Week 3 in 2009.

The Dolphins hope Pennington can manage the game well enough to win, which means fewer interceptions, as in 2008, when he only threw seven, and the Dolphins set an NFL record for fewest turnovers in a 16-game season with 13.

But the Dolphins also have to show some semblance of a running game to aid Pennington's efforts.

In 2009, the Dolphins ranked fourth in the NFL in rushing, averaging 139.4 yards per game. So far in 2010, they rank 16th, averaging 105 yards a contest.

Part of the problem has been an offensive line that has regressed since 2009, thanks partly to injuries to Nate Garner and John Jerry. Also, Ronnie Brown (433 yards, 2 TDs) has struggled to regain his pre-injury form.

The Dolphins have just three runs of 20 or more yards this season, and two came in the Cincinnati game (one by wideout Brian Hartline on an end-around), and have scored just three TDs on the ground in 2010.

Last week, Brown and the ground game started well, as Brown had five carries for 33 yards and scored a TD on the opening drive of the game against Baltimore. His totals the rest of the game: four attempts for 26 yards.

The Dolphins trailed just 13-10 at halftime, yet failed to run the ball much in the second half, putting the burden on Henne again to win the game.

Perhaps with Pennington back in the fold, the Dolphins will get back to the balance that has been so successful for them the past two seasons.

The Titans are towards the middle of the pack in rushing defense (they rank 14th), so this should be another good opportunity for Brown and Ricky Williams.

Titans starter Vince Young will miss the game with an injury, but there is little drop-off for Tennessee because Kerry Collins is one of the best backups in the league.

In the only game Collins started this year against Philadelphia, he completed 17-of-31 passes for 276 yards, three TDs and two INTs in a 37-19 win.

Kenny Britt, the biggest recipient with seven catches for 225 yards and all three scores, will be out with a hamstring injury. But recently-added Randy Moss will add another element to the Titans attack.

By acquiring Moss, the Titans hope they can limit the eight-man fronts Chris Johnson has been seeing all year.

Johnson is not having the all-world season he had in 2009, when he averaged 125 yards rushing per game, gained 5.6 yards per carry, and scored a total of 16 TDs.

This year, he's averaged a more mortal 90 yards per game, but he has scored eight TDs so far this season.

In 2009, the Dolphins were one of the few teams that did a good job on Johnson, holding him to 104 yards on 29 carries. CJ didn't score a TD, and the only time he nearly broke free came on a 57-yard catch-and-run in the second quarter.

Now, the Dolphins must try to stop him at home, where they're a shocking 0-4 so far.

But although Young and Britt are out, and Collins has not developed much chemistry with Moss yet, I think the Titans have enough weapons offensively to test the Dolphins soft pass coverage, which Joe Flacco became the latest to exploit last week.

That, combined with the always present home-run threat of Johnson and the readjustment to life as a starter by Pennington, tips the scales in Tennessee's favor.

Titans 28, Dolphins 21.

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