Dolphins Shut Down Titans

Pro Football Hall Of Famer Terry Bradshaw poses for photographers as he arrives at the world premiere of "Failure to Launch" in New York on Wednesday, March 8, 2006. Bradshaw, who bares all in the film, co-stars with Oscar-winner Kathy Bates as the parents of a 35-year-old man (Matthew McConaughey) still living at home. They hire a woman (Sarah Jessica Parker) to seduce their son and induce him to leave.
AP Photo/Stuart Ramson

With a second-string quarterback and first-rate defense, the Miami Dolphins smothered one of the NFL's hottest teams.

So what does Sunday night's 17-0 victory over the Tennessee Titans say about the Dolphins?

"There was no statement," coach Jimmy Johnson said. "The only statement we're making right now is we're better than seven teams we've played. We've got a lot more to play."

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Game Summary

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  • The Dolphins, with their best start since 1990, joined Jacksonville as AFC front-runners at 7-1. Damon Huard threw two touchdown passes and Sam Madison intercepted Steve McNair three times to spark Miami.

    Tennessee fell to 6-2 in the battle of AFC co-leaders. The shutout was the first for the Titans in 156 games since they lost 34-0, as the Houston Oilers, at Kansas City in 1989.

    "I congratulate the Dolphins on the shutout," Tennessee sixth-year coach Jeff Fisher said. "It's the first time I've been shut out. I'm going to make sure this doesn't happen again."

    Huard improved to 3-0 as a starter since Dan Marino was sidelined Oct. 17 by a pinched nerve in his neck. Huard was 15-of-25 for 210 yards with four sacks but no interceptions.

    "The biggest thing is, I've screamed at him and screamed at him, `Do not throw the ball into coverage,"' Johnson said. "If there's any question he won't throw it into coverage. He'll take the sack. ...

    "When you don't turn the ball over, with defense you're going to have a chance to beat anybody you play."

    Huard became the first quarterback other than Marino to start three consecutive Miami victories since David Woodley in 1982. Marino might return to the lineup Sunday at Buffalo.

    "I'm feeling prett good, but this is a team effort," Huard said. "Our defense is outstanding."

    Huard threw touchdown passes of 6 yards to Stanley Pritchett and 43 yards to Tony Martin, giving Miami a 14-0 lead midway through the second period. The defense did the rest.

    The Dolphins' defenders haven't allowed a touchdown in 14 quarters, and they recovered from a slow start to smother Tennessee. Eddie George rushed for 55 yards in his first six carries but gained only 10 yards in eight carries the rest of the game. McNair was 22-for-42 for 205 yards with four sacks.

    "We've got to swallow this bad pill, digest it and let it go," McNair said.

    Three times Madison stepped in front of passes near the left sideline.

    "As a cornerback, you dream of three-interception games," Miami cornerback Terrell Buckley said. "You might not get one your whole career. I haven't. But it was fun watching. I was down the field choking my guy and I heard the crowd screaming, and I looked back and Sam had another one."

    Only one interception led to a score. Olindo Mare kicked a 46-yard field goal at the start of the fourth quarter for a 17-0 lead.

    Tennessee reached the Miami 3-yard line in the final minute, but McNair threw incomplete on fourth down.

    Until then, the Titans' best threat came with the game scoreless. They drove 72 yards before Al Del Greco's 33-yard field goal bounced off the left upright.

    "We moved the ball very well," George said. "We just didn't finish it off."

    Two lucky plays on the next series helped Miami take a 7-0 lead. Oronde Gadsden caught a deflected, fluttering pass for a 29-yard gain, and after Huard recovered his own fumble, he improvised a 20-yard pass to O.J. McDuffie. Those gains set up Pritchett's touchdown.

    George was stopped on a fourth-down run at the Dolphins' 33, and two plays later Martin weaved through the secondary on his scoring reception for a 14-0 lead.

    The lopsided result was unusual for both teams. Six of Tennessee's first seven games were decided by three points or less, and Miami's previous five wins had been by a total of 17 points.

    Notes

  • Dolphins safety Calvin Jackson strained his left hamstring in the first quarter.
  • Tennessee guard Benji Olson hurt his right leg and missed much of the second half.
  • Madison became the first Dolphin to intercept three passes since Louis Oliver in 1992 at Buffalo.
  • Miami had shutouts last year against St. Louis and Pittsburgh.

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