Keys to Dolphins victory over Titans


The Miami Dolphins ended a three game losing streak and got back to winning ways against the Tennessee Titans in Dan Campbell’s first game as interim head coach. The many Dolphins fans in Nashville were rewarded for their patience and dedication by a dominant performance, in which aggression and fight were the potent tones.

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Experts around the league casted a worried eye over Miami after they fired head coach Joe Philbin in the wake of the divisional loss to the New York Jets in Week Four. The rejuvenation in the Dolphins camp was there for all to see against the Titans though, and the players have clearly bought into Campbell’s philosophy. They delivered a defiant showing and the new coach celebrated every first down, every Cameron Wake sack and every punishing run like an excited kid would on Madden.

Campbell has kept the Dolphins’ season alive and has given fans a new lease of life, here are the key factors for his success.

Sticking with the run

The Dolphins began Sunday’s game as one of two teams in the league still without a rushing touchdown, four games into the season. Lamar Miller had just 37 rushing attempts to his name and had been limited to a miserable seven carries in the last two games against the Jets and the Buffalo Bills respectively. While Philbin and Bill Lazor abandoned the run early in the season, Campbell did the opposite, and his decision to do so was swiftly justified by Miller’s performance. The Dolphins running back was handed the ball 19 times against the Titans, which enabled him to record over 100 rushing yards in a game for the first time this season. The closest he had come so far was with 53 yards against the Washington Redskins in Week One.

A patchy offensive line set the tone with their blocking up front, and what they lacked in ability they made up for with fight. Miller blew through gaps and punished the Titans defense time and time again. The all-around dominant showing was epitomised by Miller’s touchdown run, in which he crossed the goal line with one defender hanging off him as another drilled him to the ground. 

The Defense Wakes up

The Dolphins defensive line was arguably the most underperforming unit in the entire NFL before this game. The signing of free agent Ndamukong Suh on a $114 million contract was beginning to look like the biggest mistake in NFL history, Pro Bowl defensive end Wake had been hindered by a hamstring injury and the entire group had only recorded one sack prior to the Titans game, by back-up defensive tackle Jordan Phillips. Newly promoted coordinator Lou Anarumo’s defense were a different bunch of guys on Sunday. 

Anarumo simply told the linemen to go hit the quarterback, whatever the cost, and they did not disappoint

They were fired up and ready to go, motivated by the opportunity to turn their season around under new management. The Phins D hit anything that moved and swarmed to the ball on every play. Campbell and co sent them back to basics and took the leash off a defensive line that had been confused by a complicated strategy thus far. Anarumo simply told the linemen to go hit the quarterback, whatever the cost, and they did not disappoint. Wake himself sacked Marcus Mariota four times in the first half, forcing two fumbles, while Olivier Vernon and Jordan Kovacs both got their first sacks of the campaign.

The defense finished with four turnovers as Reshad Jones jumped a route and returned a pick for six points and Brent Grimes added another touchdown-saving diving interception to his seemingly endless highlight reel. It was the type of performance that had been expected of this unit all season long. Still, though, Suh only managed as many tackles as quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Something has got to give.

Rishard keeps delivering

A lot was made of the Dolphins receiving contingent in the preseason, but it is Rishard Matthews who has been the surprising stand out of the group in the early stages of the campaign. Matthews led the team in receiving yards for the third time this season with 85 from six receptions against the Titans. The fourth-year receiver has caught the ball 23 times for 363 yards so far, and has recorded over 100 receiving yards in two games.

Kenny Stills and Jarvis Landry in particular are the substantial playmakers of the receiving corps, but Matthews’ recent form is making a strong case for him as a starter. His 113 yards and two touchdown performance was the only saving grace from a dismal Dolphins display against the Bills and Phins fans can take reassurance that players like Matthews are stepping up when the multi-million dollar contract guys do not show up. 

"The Dolphins have the chance to get back to .500 this Sunday against the Houston Texans at SunLife Stadium."