Titans vs. Dolphins: Chris Johnson and Titans D Run over Tannehill and Company

Nate Dunlevy@NateDunlevyGuest ColumnistNovember 11, 2012

The best motivation in the NFL is playing for your job.

With an entire regime seemingly hanging in the balance, the Tennessee Titans came up with their first complete whistle-to-whistle performance of 2012, stomping the Miami Dolphins 37-3.

After being embarrassed at home just a week prior, the Titans rallied and were sparked by the return to the lineup of quarterback Jake Locker.

Locker looked rusty, completing just 9-of-21 for 122 yards. He did throw for two touchdowns, however, and chipped in a key 20-yard scramble to help the team build a 24-3 lead by halftime.

Chris Johnson continued his recent run of strong play by putting up 126 yards rushing and a score of his own.

The offense did an excellent job taking advantage of sloppy play by the Dolphins. Turnovers came fast and furious starting with a forced fumble by Jason McCourty of Reggie Bush in the first quarter.

The Titans made quick work of the gift, with Locker needing just four plays to convert it into a touchdown to Kendall Wright.

The defense wasn't content to let the offense grab all the headlines, however. Early in the second quarter, Colin McCarthy picked off a pass tipped by Akeem Ayers an ran it back 49 yards to put the Titans up by 17.

Ayers himself took advantage of rookie Ryan Tannehill later in the second quarter, snagging his own interception and punctuating yet another strong performance.

By the time the second half rolled around, the Titans were able to run methodical, clock-grinding drives. They opened the half with a bruising 12-play, 86-yard drive capped by a soft, lofted 26-yard throw from Locker to Jared Cook for a touchdown that ran the score to 31-3.

Two more Rob Bironas field goals in the fourth quarter padded the final margin as Matt Hasselbeck came in for mop-up duty.

The two-sack, four-turnover, three-point effort by the defense was completely unexpected. With the bye week coming, many were openly wondering if defensive coordinator Jerry Gray may be coaching his final game with the club. The Titans were last in the NFL in points allowed and had only held two opponents under 30 points all season.

Also encouraging was the play of Locker. His passes were wobbly and often short of the mark, but he did show good command of the offense. On multiple occasions he made plays with his legs, indicating a level of confidence in his injured shoulder.

The Titans have an opportunity to get a win streak going in two weeks when they take on the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars in Jacksonville. 

The playoffs are still likely out of reach for Tennessee, as their post-bye schedule includes the Houston Texans, Green Bay Packers and a trip to Indianapolis to play the Colts. Even if Tennessee sweeps the Jaguars and beats the New York Jets at home, they'll have to win at least one of those difficult contests to get to 8-8.