Titans 17, Dolphins 7
Saturday, September 11th 2004, 5:36 pm
By: News On 6
MIAMI (AP) _ An approaching hurricane failed to faze the Tennessee Titans, and the Miami Dolphins' offense didn't give them much trouble, either.
Tennessee made three interceptions Saturday, including one in their own end zone and another returned 37 yards for a touchdown by Lamont Thompson, and beat Miami 17-7.
To avoid bad weather associated with Hurricane Ivan, kickoff was moved up 24 hours, which scrambled the Titans' itinerary. But they improved to 43-30 on the road under coach Jeff Fisher.
``We knew early in the week that the game could be changed, so we were ready,'' cornerback Andre Dyson said. ``You have to be ready for anything, and we were.''
Both Jay Fiedler and A.J. Feeley struggled to move the Dolphins. Fiedler threw two interceptions, drew boos and was replaced at halftime with Miami trailing 7-0. Feeley, under pressure from a blitzing Keith Bulluck, was intercepted by Thompson for Tennessee's second touchdown.
``He threw it right to me,'' Thompson said. ``That worked out easy for me, because all I had to do was catch it and run with it.''
The Dolphins, who tied a franchise record with 14 penalties, averted a shutout when Feeley threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Randy McMichael with 3:22 left.
Chris Brown, making his first start as Eddie George's replacement, set up a touchdown with a 52-yard run, the Titans' longest since 1998. Brown gained 100 yards in 16 carries but sat out the second half with a sprained left ankle.
Steve McNair threw only 14 passes _ one for a score _ and the Titans outrushed the Dolphins 182 yards to 65.
``When you've got a great running back in Chris, and when you have a passing attack like we've got, what do you defend?'' said McNair, last season's co-MVP with Indianapolis' Peyton Manning.
The Dolphins had no answer _ and relatively few fans. Miami announced 69,987 tickets sold, but the schedule switch limited the actual crowd to half that. By the fourth quarter many had departed.
It wasn't the start sought by the Dolphins, who hoped to bounce back from a tumultuous summer that included the loss of three top players _ Ricky Williams to retirement, David Boston to injury and Adewale Ogunleye in a trade following a contract dispute.
Miami's best drive in the first half reached the 20, but Samari Rolle intercepted Fiedler in the end zone.
``We just knew that if we challenged their receivers and suffocated the running game, we didn't think any of those quarterbacks could get anything,'' Rolle said.
Fiedler led his team to just three first downs _ one by penalty _ before getting the hook from coach Dave Wannstedt. He went 5-for-13 for 42 yards, while newcomer Feeley went 21-for-31 for 168 yards.
Fiedler, Miami's starter the past four years, said he was disappointed and frustrated to be benched so quickly.
``We were down one touchdown,'' he said. ``I've been in a lot of games where I've struggled early and come back and won games. I didn't lack any confidence to be able to do that again.''
Wannstedt said he'll watch the game tape before deciding on the starting quarterback next week at Cincinnati, but he offered a hint by saying Feeley played well while Fiedler didn't.
Aside from an unsettled quarterback situation, the Dolphins were short-handed because of injuries at fullback and running back. They did little on the ground little against the NFL's top run defense last year.
Fourth-year pro Travis Minor, making his first career start, carried five times for 25 yards but missed the second half with an ankle injury. Lamar Gordon, acquired this week from the St. Louis Rams for a third-round draft pick, managed 32 yards in 12 carries.
Not even the humid, 86-degree afternoon could help the Dolphins, typically toughest to beat in muggy weather. They lost at home in September for just the third time since 1994.
``We've got a long way to go to be a good team,'' linebacker Zach Thomas said. ``That was a poor performance.''
Notes: The Titans said they don't think Brown's injury is serious. ... Dolphins fullback Sammy Morris hurt his ankle in the second quarter, left the field on a cart and didn't return. ... The Dolphins fell to 29-6 in home openers. ... Rookie DE Antwan Odom became the first rookie to start on the Titans' defensive line since Jevon Kearse in 1999, who went on to win the NFL's defensive rookie of year award.