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Crash of the Titan Defense Leads to Dolphin Victory

NFL WEEK 1 | MIAMI 31, TENNESSEE 23

September 10, 2001|From Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Miami Dolphins don't really care how they play in the preseason. They know exactly what to do once the games really count.

Jay Fiedler passed for 225 yards and two touchdowns as the Dolphins beat the Tennessee Titans, 31-23, Sunday night, their 10th consecutive victory to open the season, the second-longest such streak in NFL history.

Only the Dallas Cowboys have done better, winning 17 consecutive openers from 1965 through 1981.

"Any time you come into this place like this and get a win, it's a great feeling," Fiedler said.

It looked as if the Dolphins' streak might end Sunday night. Only the Baltimore Ravens had won since the Titans moved into Adelphia Coliseum in 1999, and they had a record crowd of 68,798 to cheer on a franchise that has won 26 games here.

But Miami, the only team ever to shut out the Titans under Coach Jeff Fisher, won its fifth in a row in this series by giving Fiedler plenty of time to throw, grabbing three interceptions and knocking quarterback Steve McNair out of the game.

"This is not what I expected to see out of our football team tonight," Fisher said. "Obviously, we didn't give ourselves a chance from the start."

The Titans brought in a defense that was the NFL's best against the pass last season and featured off-season addition Kevin Carter. The Titans didn't sack Fiedler, and he responded by hitting seven of his first eight passes.

"For him to come down here and play in front of this crowd against that kind of defense and take the kind of hits he took, for him to hang in, he showed he's a tough guy, a real tough guy," Miami Coach Dave Wannstedt said.

Fiedler made it 17-7 at halftime as he connected with Oronde Gadsden on a 23-yard touchdown pass play in the second quarter. In the third, Lamar Smith took a screen pass and went 65 yards up the middle for a touchdown and a 24-7 lead.

Tennessee was even worse on offense.

The Titans got only eight yards total offense in the first quarter, and they hurt themselves repeatedly with nine penalties for 61 yards by halftime. They didn't pick up a first down that didn't come by penalty until midway through the second quarter.

When Tennessee did score, new kicker Joe Nedney missed an extra point.

All-Pro running back Eddie George, who carried only 11 times in the preseason coming off toe surgery in February, never really did get started. He rushed 18 times for 49 yards and couldn't think of another game when the Titans played this poorly.

"We didn't take advantage of the opportunities we had as an offense and, when that happens, the result is going to be that you're going to get blown out at home," George said.

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