MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. –** On Friday, after taking first-team reps throughout the week, quarterback Matt Cassel had a hunch he’d start for the Titans here on Sunday.
Cassel officially got the word on Saturday.
Against the Dolphins, Cassel tried to lead the Titans on a day when regular starter Marcus Mariota watched from the sideline.
But the Titans never really got in sync on offense in a 16-10 loss to the Dolphins. The team struggled on third down, couldn’t run the ball consistently, and Cassel was sacked six times in the contest.
“I don’t think we were able (to get into a rhythm) most of the day,” Cassel said. “We’ve got to be better in situational football, especially on third down to extend drives, and I think that’s something we have to continue to get better at.
“(The Dolphins) did a good job today. They rushed me pretty well and we weren’t really able to establish the run game real well. We knew it was going to be a tight game, but at the same time we’d love to get into more of a rhythm. On third down opportunities we have to convert more to keep ourselves on the field.”
Cassel completed 21-of-32 passes for 141 yards, with a touchdown – an 11-yard completion to tight end Phillip Supernaw. The Titans couldn’t sustain drives most of the day, however, largely because they went just 2-of-13 on third down (15 percent).
The Titans managed just 69 yards on the ground with running backs DeMarco Murray (14-58) and Derrick Henry (4-9). In a win here last season, the Titans racked up 235 yards on the ground.
“I have to do a better job,” Cassel said, “(and) we all have to do a better job offensively to be more successful.”
Titans coach Mike Mularkey said the inconsistencies on offense “aren’t all on Matt.” He thought he managed the game well.
What appeared to be a 59-yard touchdown pass to tight end Delanie Walker was called back because of a penalty. Later, officials ruled Cassel fumbled on what appeared to be an incomplete pass. The Dolphins picked the ball up, and returned it for a touchdown.
“We all have to rally around Matt and do a better job for Matt,” Mularkey said. “You can give them credit for their third down defense against us, but I know I can go down each play on third down and look at something we did that didn’t help matters.”
Just how much longer Cassel will be needed remains to be seen.
Mularkey said Mariota wasn’t real close to playing in Sunday’s game.
Mariota was limited in practices during the week with a hamstring injury, and spent most of his week rehabbing the injury.
Mularkey said Mariota remains “day to day.” When asked about Mariota’s availability for next Monday against the Colts, he replied: “I feel better about that one than this one.”
Mariota watched Sunday’s game from the sideline, and communicated with Cassel. He was seen encouraging teammates in pregame warmups.
“He was a great teammate today, and was talking about what they were doing, especially when we got to the 2-minute situation where we were thinking we were going to get in at the end of the game,” Cassel said of Mariota. “He is a great support factor and he was trying to do everything he could to help us win.”