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Thigpen rescues Dolphins, sinks Titans

Tyler Thigpen could be the Dolphins' QB for a while.
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Alex Marvez

Alex Marvez is a Senior NFL Writer for FOXSports.com. He has covered the NFL for the past 18 seasons as a beat writer and is the former president of the Pro Football Writers of America. He also is a frequent host on Sirius XM NFL Radio.

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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla.

The scout-team quarterback who spent the past week throwing to a faux Randy Moss actually helped his team defeat the real McCoy.

This was the type of bizarre NFL theater presented Sunday by the Miami Dolphins and Tennessee Titans. Tyler Thigpen’s improbable fourth-quarter heroics led Miami to a 29-17 home victory over Tennessee that made Moss’ lackluster Titans debut just as forgettable.

Even with the double-team coverage Moss often commanded, the two quarterbacks that Tennessee was forced to use because of injuries were horrifically scattershot. Kerry Collins and Vince Young combined to complete 18 of 38 passes for a paltry 143 yards.

The Dolphins were in even worse straits. Starter Chad Pennington (shoulder) and backup Chad Henne (knee) both went down before the end of the third quarter.

Enter Thigpen, a fourth-year journeyman who hadn’t taken a snap with the starting offense — even in practice — since being thrust into duty during Miami’s disastrous 2009 season finale against Pittsburgh. Remarkably, Thigpen was the sharpest quarterback on the field Sunday. With the Dolphins trying to nurse a 23-17 lead, Thigpen completed four of five passes for 64 yards, including a 9-yard touchdown strike to tight end Anthony Fasano that clinched the victory.

The play was called off a sheet that Thigpen, like Miami’s other quarterbacks, give weekly to Miami’s coaches as game-plan suggestions for throws they’re most comfortable executing.

Thigpen deserves credit for maintaining his attention to detail when others mired in his same position might have slouched. Thigpen kept focus even though his scout team reps were cut this week. He had to split snaps with Henne, who was demoted in favor of Pennington as coach Tony Sparano tried providing a “spark” for his flickering offense.

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Thigpen now looks like a likely starter Thursday night against visiting Chicago. Henne was on crutches after the game from a low (but legal) blow by Titans defensive tackle Tony Brown that he said “hit my kneecap on the outside and bent it forward.” Henne was undergoing an MRI test Sunday night to determine the extent of the injury.

Pennington lasted only two plays until reinjuring his surgically repaired right (throwing) shoulder. Pennington’s status, let alone NFL future after multiple shoulder surgeries, wasn’t immediately disclosed by the Dolphins.

Thigpen said he feels bad for his teammates. He also knows this is a golden opportunity to stake his claim as a full-time starter.

“I was excited for this day,” Thigpen said. “I’m a competitor whether it’s in a game, a video game, a card game. It doesn’t matter. I hate losing. If I lose, don’t talk to me.”

Moss has adopted the same mantra with the media — win or lose. After initially refusing interview requests Sunday, Moss did finally take to a podium. He answered two questions and spoke for a whopping 1:13 before walking off.

Just like during his previous stops in New England and Minnesota, the best thing Moss did on the field was serve as a decoy who lured notice from a safety. Such extra attention helped clear the way for Titans running back Chris Johnson on a 17-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.

Moss’ production otherwise didn’t leave much to talk about. His one reception for 26 yards came in the fourth quarter. He also drew a 33-yard pass interference penalty on Miami cornerback Vontae Davis. That’s about it from a personal standpoint.

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“It was actually a bad game for me,” said Moss, who was claimed off waivers 12 days ago after being released by Minnesota. “I just tried to be as much help to them as I could (and) play within the offense. I felt comfortable out there, but I don’t think I had a very good overall game. My blocking really wasn’t that good (or) where I wanted it to be. So I’ll just go back (to) the drawing board and come back again next week.”

Moss wasn’t the only surly Titans player after the loss. Young bristled when asked about FOXSports.com NFL insider Jay Glazer’s report that he didn’t visit team headquarters for treatment on his injured ankle during Tennessee’s bye week. Young didn’t start after missing most of last week’s practices. He entered only after Collins (calf) was unable to return after halftime.

“Whoever you got it from, you’ve got to talk to them,” Young said of Glazer’s report. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

As a whole, the Titans had no answers for Miami in the second half after squandering numerous opportunities to take control of the game. Miami’s offense deployed a no-backs set and dusted off the Ronnie Brown-led Wildcat with surprising success. Young orchestrated one scoring drive but also put Miami in position for its own touchdown after a sack-and-strip by strong safety Yeremiah Bell deep inside Titans territory.

Dolphins rookie safety Reshad Jones put the finishing touches on the win late in the fourth quarter by sacking Young and then intercepting him in the end zone on the next play.

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“Things were out of sync today all around,” Titans wide receiver Nate Washington said.

The Titans (5-4) should begin to find that missing cohesion as Young becomes healthier and builds a stronger rapport with Moss. Miami’s playoff prospects are far cloudier because of the quarterback injuries. But at least the Dolphins (5-4) have a future that’s worth worrying about, thanks to Thigpen.

“Whatever it takes to win,” Thigpen said. “If it takes four guys throwing the ball … as long as it’s in the left-hand column.”

Tagged: Titans, Dolphins, Randy Moss, Chad Pennington, Tony Brown, Vince Young, Tyler Thigpen, Chad Henne

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