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Titans try to turn it around in Miami

9:08 AM, Nov 9, 2012   |    comments
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(Sports Network) - It's not every day you can drive an 89-year-old man to hyperbolic extremes.

But that's just what the Tennessee Titans managed last week with owner Bud Adams.

Atop the franchise's front office since its creation, Adams emerged from the Titans' 51-20 loss to the visiting Chicago Bears with as much football-related disgust as he's managed in half a century.

"In my 50 years of owning an NFL franchise, I am at a loss to recall a regular-season home game that was such a disappointment for myself and fans of the Titans," he said. "We were grossly outcoached and outplayed from start to finish."

They get a chance to turn their leader's frown upside down this Sunday, when they visit the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium. And don't think for a second that Adams won't be watching for -- and demanding -- a marked improvement.

He said everyone from the front office to the practice squad would be evaluated over the final seven games, an admonition coach Mike Munchak clearly understood.

"I would probably have said the same thing if I were him," Munchak said. "This is his team. He expects us to play well, especially at home. That's our job. That's my job to make sure we're out there playing our best and winning games at home hopefully every time we line up."

Tennessee committed five turnovers, allowed its most points since 2009 and played in front of a "home" crowd in Nashville reportedly more than half- filled with Bears fans. To make matters worse, consecutive illegal formation penalties ultimately led to a blocked punt recovered for a Chicago touchdown and running back Chris Johnson lost a pair of fumbles.

The Titans are last in the league in scoring defense -- 34.2 points per game -- and, at 308, are just nine points shy of matching the 317 points they allowed all last season.

That said, significant coaching staff changes are not on the immediate agenda.

"We have to win football games right now," Munchak said. "I'm not spending my time deciding on making coaching changes. I'm not thinking of doing that."

Expected back under center this week is second-year quarterback Jake Locker, who's missed five games after a left shoulder injury during a 38-14 loss at Houston on Sept. 30. He'll share practice reps with veteran Matt Hasselbeck, who's 2-3 with an 81.3 passer rating as a fill-in, before Munchak makes the final call later this week.

"The good news is medically they are very happy with his progress," Munchak said. "He has been cleared as far as they are concerned to move forward to the next level, which for now is to start taking reps, practicing and getting ready for a game week."

On the other side, the host Dolphins seem quite content with their own young quarterback.

No. 8 overall pick Ryan Tannehill, who hasn't thrown an interception since Week 4, completed 22-of-38 passes for 290 yards and a touchdown last week in a losing effort against fellow rookie Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts. Still, it was a successful bounce-back for Tannehill, who'd left the previous week's game against the New York Jets with a left leg injury.

"We've had some good games, some not-so-good games and some bad games," he said. "You have to realize where you are at and push forward. We are at a critical point in the season, halfway through, and it can go either way from here."

The loss ended a three-game win streak for the Dolphins, who trail first-place New England by just a game in a congested AFC East. Miami visits Tennessee Sunday, then heads Thursday to slumping Buffalo, which has lost four of five -- including a 35-34 verdict to the Titans in Week 7.

"I couldn't ask for a better job out of (Tannehill)," running back Reggie Bush said. "He's really poised back there."

Tennessee's Johnson ran for 117 yards and a touchdown against Miami in November 2010, but the Dolphins won, 29-17, after Anthony Fasano caught five passes for 107 yards and a TD. Miami leads the all-time series, 18-14, and has won eight of the last 11 games.

Neither Munchak nor Miami coach Joe Philbin have faced this week's opponent.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

The Dolphins' 11 rushing touchdowns are one behind the league lead shared by Houston, New England and Washington, and their 111.9 yards per game places them in the top half of the NFL as well.

Conversely, stopping the run is where the Titans have faced their biggest challenges thus far, as a 141.6-yard weekly average for foes -- good for 30th in a 32-team league -- duly attests.

Assuming Bush is fully healthy after some first-half nicks, he seems likely to maintain the 4-plus yard clip per carry that he's posted in two games since a Week 7 bye. Second-year man Daniel Thomas has been an intermittent threat as well, with double-digit carries in three games -- two of which ended in Miami wins.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The Titans appeared to be turning a corner until running into Andrew Luck and Brian Urlacher in the last two weeks. Likewise, the Dolphins were hearing heady playoff talk before a three-game win streak was cut short last Sunday. Given the potentially beneficial run matchup with Bush and Thomas, and a defense that's been reliably respectable, if not consistently dominant, Miami should protect its house.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Dolphins 17, Titans 13

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