The Tennessee Titans (2-3) suffered consecutive losses for the first time this season after falling to the Miami Dolphins (2-2) 16-10 at Hard Rock Stadium.
And while fans feared the worse all week with Matt Cassel filling in for an injured Marcus Mariota, today’s loss is not on him.
In fact, Cassel didn’t let his team down today. It was the other way around.
Knowing what we know about Cassel, if I would have told you that he would complete 66% of his passes for 141 yards and a touchdown…you would take it given the opponent and identity on offense.
But the run game gave Cassel no help today. The Titans rushed for just 69 yards on less than four yards per carry as a team.
Dolphins’ running back Jay Ajayi had 77 yards rushing himself.
And speaking of the run game, someone needs to put an APB out on Derrick Henry. The second half of Thunder and Thunder averaged less than three yards per carry today, and looked tentative and unsure for the first time that I can remember.
Henry now has 16 yards rushing on 10 attempts the last two weeks. That’s unfathomable for a player with his size and skill set…but I digress.
The offense line fared no better today.
Knowing all week that Cassel would need to be hidden by a strong run game, the o’line failed to impose their will on Miami’s defense. The unit allowed six sacks and several hits on Cassel, who was running for his life on just about every third down situation.
Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan injured his knee on the first offensive series of the game, and couldn’t finish after a brief return to action.
None of this would have mattered if not for a questionable offensive pass interference call on rookie tight end Jonnu Smith. A call that wiped out a long touchdown pass to Delanie Walker.
There was little contact by Smith on the play, and he was 30 yards away from Walker. The play would have put the Titans ahead 7-3.
However, a few plays later, Cassel was hit while attempting to throw. After a lengthy conversation, the officials determined that Cassel fumbled on the play and the Dolphins returned it for a touchdown….stretching their lead to 10-0.
That was the difference in a game where both offenses failed to gain traction.
Tennessee’s defense played lights out for 58 minutes, but allowed Ajayi to convert a third and seven on the ground in the closing minutes. It would have been the Titans’ last real opportunity to win the game if the defense gets off the field.
No, Cassel is not the long-term answer at backup qb. And the Titans’ playoff hopes are in serious jeopardy if Mariota continues to miss games.
But today, Cassel showed his toughness for continuing to hang in there after taking a beating in the pocket.
Yes, Cassel is a huge downgrade from Mariota, but he did just enough to squeak out a win over the Dolphins.
This one is not on him.