Unsightly matchup: Dolphins’ offense against Titans’ defense

MIAMI (AP) — The Dolphins’ offense has been the worst, while the Titans’ defense has merely been bad. So perhaps Tennessee enjoys a slight edge in Sunday’s unsightly matchup.

Or not. After all, last week the Titans gave up 57 points.

But then again, the Dolphins didn’t score. They rank last in the NFL in points (8.3) and yards (249) per game, yards per play (4.2) and third-down conversion (21 percent).

Ah, but maybe they can get it going against the Titans, who have allowed 99 first downs, more than any other team, and rank near the bottom in points and yards allowed.

What a showdown. Will the Dolphins (1-2) break out? Will the Titans (2-2) dig in?

Here are things to know about two struggling teams:

STALLED DOLPHINS: The Dolphins will make a delayed home debut after their season opener against Tampa Bay was postponed due to Hurricane Irma. Perhaps the friendly setting will help jump-start an offense that sputtered so badly in last week’s 20-0 loss to New Orleans that coach Adam Gase faced questions whether quarterback Jay Cutler should be benched in favor of Matt Moore.

Gase says no. The odious offense is a team effort, he says.

“We just need to be more on the same page and eliminate the mistakes where eight guys are doing it right and three guys are doing it wrong,” Gase says. “If anybody’s doing it wrong, it needs to be down to one guy, to where we can still have success on the play.”

REELING TITANS: Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota is hampered by a strained hamstring, making his availability uncertain. An offense missing its QB — Matt Cassel is the backup — could put more pressure on the team’s defense, which allowed Houston to score a franchise-record point total last week.

Cutler watched video of the Titans surrendering four touchdown passes by Texans rookie Deshaun Watson, but knows that’s no guarantee Miami will be move the ball.

“The way we’re playing offensively, I don’t think we can take anything for granted right now,” Cutler says. “If we flop it out there the way we have the last two games, they’re going to eat us up.”

The start could be critical. The Dolphins have scored only three points in the first half this season.

“We want to make sure that we show them we’re there to play early and don’t give them any type of air to breathe,” Titans linebacker Avery Williamson says.

STICK TO THE GROUND: The Titans were the NFL’s third-best rushing team in 2016, and they’ve dipped only slightly this season. They’re averaging 138.8 yards rushing, which ranks sixth.

DeMarco Murray, who led the AFC in rushing last season, is averaging 5.1 yards per carry, and backup Derrick Henry is at 4.6. Mariota has been a key piece of the run game, averaging 5.8.

Miami Pro Bowl defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh looks forward to tackling the challenge.

“To me, this is just like in college, when I remember being at Nebraska and playing against Virginia Tech,” Suh says. “You know it’s smash-mouth football, and we’re going to have fun with it. I enjoy it. I can’t wait.”

While the season is off to a disappointing start, the Dolphins have improved their run defense, which ranks fourth in the NFL allowing 3.1 yards per carry. That’s compared with last year’s 4.8 average, worst in the league.

ROOKIE PROMOTED: Miami third-round draft pick Cordrea Tankersley made his NFL debut last week and played so well he’s staying in the starting lineup.

“He’s just really what we’re looking for,” Gase says. “We like the tall, long corners that come up and press and play physical at the line of scrimmage.”

The 6-foot-1 Tankersley supplanted veteran Byron Maxwell, who might be back in the starting lineup this week because Xavien Howard is nursing a shoulder injury.

STUCK IN RED ZONE: Since the start of the 2015 season, Mariota has the NFL’s best passer rating inside an opponent’s 20 at 111.3, with 33 touchdowns and no interceptions. But the Titans quarterback has yet to throw a TD pass in the red zone through his first four games this season. Mariota has as many touchdowns running (three) as he has passing (three).


AP Pro Football Writer Teresa M. Walker in Nashville, Tennessee contributed to this report.


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