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Titans Defense Delivers on Third Downs

Posted Nov 12, 2012

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Titans defenders know the importance of stopping opponents on third down and getting off the field.

Tennessee did so on Sunday in a 37-3 win and punctuated many of the times it shut down Miami’s offense with plays that can sway momentum in closer games. The Titans held the Dolphins to two conversions on 15 third downs and forced four turnovers in their final game before this week’s late-season bye.

Coach Mike Munchak gave players the remainder of this week off to rest and recover. He believes that players will return next Monday with a similar focus that helped Tennessee play arguably its most complete game of the year.

“They played hard, and things went our way early,” Munchak said. “We took advantage of all of our situations. You saw the confidence growing throughout the game. They had fun. You have fun when you’re winning and making plays on offense and defense. It was fun to watch that.”

Tennessee (4-6) appeared to be fully recovered from back-to-back home losses and will try to win consecutive road games in Florida when it visits Jacksonville (1-8) on Nov. 25.

The Titans limited the Dolphins to 1-for-8 on third downs in the first half, and the success was amplified by the fact that Tennessee halted Miami on three of four third-and-1 plays in that span.

Sen’Derrick Marks tackled Jorvorskie Lane for no gain on the first third-and-1, Colin McCarthy intercepted a ball that was tipped by Akeem Ayers and returned it 49 yards for a touchdown on the next such play.

“That’s something we talked about throughout the whole season, and that’s something we really stressed this week, especially after having it happen to us (against Chicago) and seeing the outcome they had,” Ayers said. “We really wanted to work on creating turnovers, and we knew if we could do that, we had a good chance of winning the game.”

Miami converted third-and-1 on its next possession that resulted in a 40-yard field goal for its only score of the game, but Ayers recorded an interception of his own the third time the Titans stopped the Dolphins on third-and-1 before halftime.

The fumble that Jason McCourty forced and recovered prevented Miami from converting third-and-13 in the first quarter, and Zach Brown’s interception and 47-yard return occurred on a third-and-10 in the fourth quarter.  

“We know the players we have on this defense, and we know the type of defense that we can be,” Ayers said. “This showed a little glimpse of it when we’re all doing what we’re supposed to do and we’re not making many mistakes, not missing many tackles, and everyone is just doing what they’re supposed to do, that’s the type of outcome we can have every week. Now, we’ve tried to kind of set the standard for ourselves, and it’s never too late, so if we can finish the season up like that, on a good note, we can be in good shape.”

McCarthy, who played home college football games for the University of Miami in Sun Life Stadium, enjoyed his return with his new teammates. McCarthy and Ayers are in their second year in the NFL and second as starters, and Brown, a rookie, started his seventh game this season and joined McCarthy and Ayers in the interceptions column.

“I think the longer we play together, the more we jell,” McCarthy said. “It just takes time, I think, with new guys kind of being shoveled in and out, and with us three being young, we realize we can be around here for a while, and the more we play together, the better we’ll be.”

McCarthy may benefit from the bye the most of any Titans player this week. He suffered a high ankle sprain in the season-opener that forced him to miss four-and-a-half games, miss practice time and manage pain as he rehabilitates the lingering injury.

“I hope it (helps). I guess I’ll find out on Monday, but week to week, it’s up and down, as far as how it feels,” McCarthy said. “Hopefully this week, resting, relaxing, getting away but staying mentally sharp (helps). We’ve got six games left. After this win, (there’s) a lot of excitement throughout the team, excited to get back and make a run these last six games.”

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