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Titans vs. Dolphins Take 2: Jake Locker Adds a Spark for the Suprising Titans

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 11: Quarterback Jake Locker #10 of the Tennessee Titans scrambles against Sean Smith #24 of the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium on November 11, 2012 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Marc Serota/Getty Images
Nate DunlevyGuest ColumnistJanuary 8, 2017

Football is an unpredictable game, but the Tennessee Titans are turning the quality into an art form.

Just a week after one of the worst losses in franchise history, the Titans rebounded with a resounding 37-3 drubbing of the Miami Dolphins.

How did they produce such a ridiculous turnaround?

A look at the tape will tell.

 

The Real Story

Jake Locker didn't play his best game against Miami, but he was certainly interesting. He has a catalytic property for the Titans that has been missing with Matt Hasselbeck under center.

Locker looks to make big plays. He looks long. He tries to scramble. Against Miami, he pressed the fight and aggressively attacked the secondary.

Yes, he was uneven (as a 9-of-22 stat line would indicate), but he averaged 13.6 yards a completion. That's what Peyton Manning averaged in his epic 2004 season. It's a sign of what Locker was attempting to do.

The big headlines will go to Chris Johnson for his ankle-breaking runs, and to the defense for torturing Ryan Tannehill all after noon, but don't underestimate the difference that Locker's return had on the mindset with which the Titans played.

 

Heroes

Obviously, Chris Johnson was a major star. No one has run for 100 yards on the Dolphins since the Regan administration, but Johnson was there by the end of the third quarter.

Akeem Ayers was fantastic again continuing a recent trend of a good play.

The offensive line had a strong day as well, consistently opening holes for Johnson and allowing a single sack.

Colin McCarthy has been grinding all year on a bad ankle. That made his gritty touchdown return of a tipped pass by Ayers all the more inspiring.

 

Goats

When a team wins 37-3, there aren't many goats to be had.

 

Secret Play

The first turnover of the game that led to the first touchdown of the game rarely qualifies as a secret play.

In this case, however, it's important to look at what happened before Jason McCourty stripped Reggie Bush at the Miami 28-yard line.

The play was a 3rd-and-13, and the Dolphins ran a draw. Bush was electric as he chewed through the Titans' defense, picking up the first down.

Up until Bush coughed up the ball, he had 23 yards on four carries as well as an eight-yard reception under his belt.

It looked like same-old same-old for the Titans' defense, allowing a long run on 3rd-and-give-up deep in Dolphins territory.

After the fumble, Bush wouldn't get another touch until the third quarter. By that time, the Titans led 31-3.

McCourty's big strip did more than set up a score. It forced Miami coach Joe Philbin to overreact, benching one his most dynamic weapons until the game was out of hand.

 

Coaching Notes

Mike Munchak wasn't faced with any overly-difficult decisions thanks to his team's penchant for putting up points.

He deserves major kudos for keeping his squad together and focused. Each win for the Titans further cements his own tenure with the club and gives his coaches a fighting chance at surviving.

Of course, another stink bomb in two weeks could undo all the good that has been done, but with a bye week to prepare, the Titans should be ready for Jacksonville.

 

Keep an Eye On...

Obviously, Locker's health is going to continue to be an issue. He looked sound and unafraid to scramble, but his throws lacked zip.

The Titans need a healthy Locker if they hope to finish 8-8.

They would have to win four of their final six games to do that, and the road is tough.

They would have to sweep the Jaguars and beat the New York Jets at home. Additionally, they would have to win one of three games: at Green Bay or Indianapolis, or against the Texans.

Their margin for error is slim, but the vaguest possible hope still shines for the playoffs.

More importantly than long odds, perhaps, is that the chance to build positive momentum for 2013 behind Locker.

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