Cameron Wake turns Dan Campbell’s Dolphins debut into a romp
Dan Campbell wanted Miami to have fun again and play physical football. Well, Reshad Jones and the Dolphins nearly ran out of ways to celebrate.
Cameron Wake got his first four sacks this season and also forced two fumbles — all in the first half — and the Dolphins beat the Tennessee Titans 38-10 on Sunday in Campbell’s debut as interim coach.
The Dolphins (2-3) had lost three in a row, costing coach Joe Philbin his job Oct. 5. But the rout was on after Jones made a twisting leap into the end zone while finishing off a 30-yard interception return for a touchdown that made it 24-3 early in the third quarter.
"Those guys were dying for something like that," Campbell said of the win. "It gives you momentum, it gives validity to everything that’s being done, and those are the fun ones right? Because now you’re up and everybody’s having fun and they’re playing hard, and it’s back to like it was when you were a kid."
With Campbell preaching a much different approach, the Dolphins finished with six sacks and intercepted Marcus Mariota twice. The rookie quarterback needed a knee brace and was replaced by Zach Mettenberger after the 2-minute warning.
"Winning’s always fun," Wake said. "And to do it with the guys with all the stuff that’s been going on the past two weeks it definitely feels good."
Miami had been one of two teams in the NFL without a rushing touchdown. But Jarvis Landry ended the drought on the opening drive, and Lamar Miller ran for 113 yards and a TD.
The Titans (1-4) lost their fourth straight, and their home skid is up to eight dating to last season. Fans booed heavily before heading to the exits, and coach Ken Whisenhunt dropped to 3-18 since taking over last season.
"There’s no defense for today," Whisenhunt said. "We didn’t get the job done."
Campbell made a couple of lineup changes, benching right guard Jamil Douglas for Billy Turner and started Kenny Stills over Greg Jennings.
Then the Dolphins opened with their first TD in the first quarter this season with an old play in the Statue of Liberty. Campbell won a replay review, challenging a Mariota incompletion ruled a fumble on review. The Dolphins outgained Tennessee 434-299.
In between, they pounded Mariota.
Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon was flagged twice for roughing the passer, the first coming when he hit the rookie low in the left leg. Mariota didn’t miss a snap, but he did put on a brace over his left knee between series. Whisenhunt criticized the hit.
"That should be taken out of the game," Whisenhunt said. "That’s not the way you play football. I think it was done with the idea of trying to hurt our quarterback."
Vernon defended himself, saying he knows it wasn’t intentional.
"I’ve never been a dirty player in my whole career," Vernon said. "Why would I start now?"
Whisenhunt benched rookie right tackle Jeremiah Poutasi, not that veteran Jamon Meredith fared much better.
The Titans also lost Titans center Brian Schwenke to a dislocated left ankle in the second quarter, an injury gruesome enough a teammate immediately waved to the sideline for help. Schwenke was carted straight to the locker room and replaced by rookie Andy Gallik.
Mariota hit Dexter McCluster for a TD to end the third quarter. The Titans held Miami to a three-and-out while trying to rally, but cornerback Brent Grimes intercepted Mariota near the goal line on the next play.
Miami had been outscored 37-3 in the first quarter. Those numbers changed when Tannehill faked a pass, and then handed off to Landry, who ran up the right side for a 22-yard TD to give Miami the lead for good.
NOTES: Wake finished the first half by sacking Mariota for the fourth time, becoming the first in the NFL with four sacks in a half since Chris Clemons had four for Seattle against Green Bay in Week 2 in 2012. … Back judge Greg Wilson, originally assigned to Patriots-Colts on Sunday night, worked this game. Wilson did not call Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright for batting the ball out of the end zone, and Seattle held on for a 13-10 victory over Detroit on Oct. 5. … Miami has won four of the last six in the series.