MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — DeMarco Murray found room on the flanks and then shimmed for extra yards. Marcus Mariota kept scrambling up the middle past the first-down marker before sliding to safety.
Smashmouth, Titans style.
There was muscle involved, but also lots of finesse as Tennessee rushed for 235 yards Sunday to grind up the Miami Dolphins, 30-17.
The offensive approach was the sort coach Mike Mularkey envisioned when the Titans signed Murray last spring.
“It kind of gives you an example of what we’re capable of,” Mularkey said. “We just need to do it like that consistently.”
The Titans (2-3) clawed back into the conversation in the AFC South, while the Dolphins (1-4) appear destined for an eighth consecutive year out of the playoffs. Here are some things to know about both teams:
GROUND GAME: Murray ran for 121 yards, Mariota dashed for 60 and Derrick Henry added 54 to give the Titans their most productive rushing performance since 2009. They averaged 5.7 yards per attempt.
“The guys up front did a great job,” Mariota said. “They controlled the line of scrimmage and really allowed us to do what we want. If we can run the football the way we did today, it will really open up some things in the passing game.”
That’s what happened against Miami. Mariota was an efficient 20 for 29 for 163 yards, with no turnovers, no sacks and three scores.
He completed passes to eight receivers. The touchdowns covered 5 yards to Andre Johnson, 20 yards to Delanie Walker and 4 yards to former Dolphin Rishard Matthews.
In addition, Mariota repeatedly hurt the Dolphins with his legs, including a 5-yard keeper for his first rushing touchdown of the year.
TANNEHILL’S TRIALS: Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill was sacked six times , but he’s not getting sacked by his coach.
The Dolphins totaled just eight first downs, and disgruntled fans chanted for Tannehill’s backup, Matt Moore. First-year Miami coach Adam Gase is staying with the fifth-year starter, however.
“He’s not coming out,” Gase said. “You can ask me 100 times. He’s going to be in there the rest of the season.”
The Dolphins were without both starters on the left side of the offensive line. Rookie guard Laremy Tunsil hurt an ankle during the pregame, and tackle Branden Albert was too weak to play after battling a virus and losing 12 pounds.
“I felt we had plenty of guys to fill the roles we need to fill,” Gase said. “We just have to do a better job.”
GOOD HALF: The Titans started fast, for them, and finished the first half strong.
Mariota’s scored the game’s first points with 23 seconds left in the first quarter. It was Tennessee’s first TD in the opening period all year.
He directed a 75-yard touchdown drive in the final two minutes of the half, completing all five of his passes in the series to put the Titans ahead 21-14.
The former Oregon star is accustomed to playing hurry-up.
“I’ve just operated in that kind of realm for a long time, so I’m really comfortable in it,” Mariota said.
SUDDEN STRIKES: Miami would have been shut out if not for three big plays. Rookie Jakeem Grant scored on a 74-yard punt return , Damien Williams had a 58-yard catch-and-run to set up a touchdown, and DeVante Parker made a 50-yard reception that led to a field goal.
“Those hurt us and kept them really in the game,” Mularkey said.
UP NEXT: The Titans play Cleveland next Sunday in the first of three consecutive home games.
“Can’t look too far in the future,” Mariota said. “It’s nice that we’ll be home for a few weeks now. Hopefully this will build into some momentum.”
The Dolphins, already three games behind New England in the AFC East, continue a four-game homestand when they play Pittsburgh.
“You better play this thing out,” Gase said. “You never know what is going to happen.”