We’ve all heard of teams playing down to their opponent’s level, no matter what sport it is.
The Tennessee Titans perfected the art of it Sunday against the Miami Dolphins.
No, make that the Titans not only perfected the art, they took it another level deeper. They reached rock bottom with a 16-10 loss to the hapless Fish. This was not the undefeated 1972 Dolphins.
This game was a comedy of ineptness for both teams. It was sad that one team walked away with a win.
Yes, it was hot as blazes, (113 degrees feel like temperature), but both sides felt the heat.
This game should have been made to order for the Titans. Miami fans spent most of the time booing former Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler instead of the Titans.
Over most of his NFL career, Cutler has become familiar with boo birds. He got the best of them despite not having gone through a training camp, or a preseason schedule before he left a broadcast booth to sign with the Dolphins.
The Titans have known since before the season that they were going to be a team that lines up and plays smash-mouth football.
Against the Dolphins, the Titans ran 20 plays for 69 yards. They got three first downs pounding the rock. They converted only two of 13 third downs while Miami converted on five of 15 third plays.
The Titans had 11 penalties for 77 yards. In a close game like this, 77 yards could easily have been the difference. These teams were close in almost every category.
With Matt Cassel taking over for the injured Marcus Mariota, it was not the same. They had 15 drives, averaging 3.2 yards while Miami averaged 3.0 yards on their drives.
“I don’t think we were able to get into a rhythm most of the day,’’ Cassel said after the game. “We’ve got to be better in situational football, especially on third down to extend drives.’’
The Titans dropped to 2-3 on the season and has AFC South opponent Colts at Nissan Stadium in a Monday Night Football game next Monday on the menu.
I’d caution the Titans not to play down to the Colts’ level or they may suffer the same result they did with the Dolphins. The Colts won a 26-23 overtime game against the 49ers Sunday.
Maybe Titans players thought the Dolphins would be road weary after playing their first three games away from their home stadium.
Maybe they overlooked them because of Jay Cutler’s inexperience after coming out of a TV booth when the Dolphins signed him.
Cutler had to feel at home despite the crowd screaming they wanted backup Matt Moore.
Dolphins second year coach Adam Gase obviously didn’t agree with the Dolphins fandom, even though Cutler had thrown only two touchdown passes going into Sunday’s game.
Cassel wasn’t Mariota, but he has had NFL experience.
“We all have to rally around Matt and do a better job for Matt,’’ Titans Coach Mike Mularkey said. “You can give (Dolphins) credit for their third down defense against us,’’ he added. “but I know I can go down each play on third down and look at something we did that didn’t help matters.’’
It will be a game that may cost them when the season ends. It’s on to the Colts.
Joe Biddle is a WKRN.com sports columnist. He is also a member of the Tennessean Sports Hall of Fame. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.