published Monday, November 12th, 2012

Takeaways help Tennessee Titans beat Dolphins

Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson is tackled by Miami Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon (50) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012, in Miami.
Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson is tackled by Miami Dolphins defensive end Olivier Vernon (50) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012, in Miami.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

MIAMI — The Tennessee Titans’ embattled defense finally found a way to stop the other team: by forcing turnovers.

Colin McCarthy returned an interception 49 yards for a touchdown, one of four takeaways that led to 20 points, and Tennessee beat the Miami Dolphins 37-3 Sunday.

The Titans came into the game on pace to set an NFL record for points allowed in a season, but they stymied Miami by intercepting Ryan Tannehill three times and recovering a Reggie Bush fumble to set up a touchdown.

The home loss was the most lopsided for Miami since 1968.

Tennessee (4-6) rebounded from a 51-20 defeat a week ago against the Bears that prompted owner Bud Adams to put the organization on notice. Last week the Titans trailed 28-2 after one quarter; this week they led 21-0 after 16 minutes.

Two benchings by coach Joe Philbin failed to shake the Dolphins (4-5) out of their malaise. Bush spent the rest of the first half on the sideline after his early fumble, and guard Richie Incognito sat briefly after committing a costly personal foul penalty.

With 20 minutes left, the stands were two-thirds empty, and the only remaining drama was whether Chris Johnson would become the first rusher to gain 100 yards against Miami in the past 23 games. He reached the milestone late in the third period and finished with 126 yards in 23 carries and one score.

Jake Locker, back after missing five games with a dislocated non-throwing shoulder, went only 9 of 21 for 122 yards, but threw for touchdowns covering 9 yards to Kendall Wright and 26 yards to Jared Cook.

Locker also ran for three first downs and helped Tennessee convert nine of 18 third- and fourth-down situations.

The Titans didn’t commit a turnover after totaling five a week ago. Linebackers McCarthy, Akeem Ayers and Zach Brown intercepted passes by Tannehill.

The tone was established early, when Jason McCourty recovered a fumble by Bush at the Dolphins’ 28, and Tennessee converted the turnover into a touchdown.

The Titans even turned pratfalls into big plays. Locker tripped as he dropped back to pass and fell 10 yards behind the line, then rose and scrambled to transform the broken play into a 20-yard gain. Four snaps later, Locker converted a fourth down with another scramble, and Johnson then scored on a 17-yard run for a 14-0 lead.

Tannehill’s six-week streak without an interception ended at 107 passes when Ayers deflected a throw to McCarthy, who sprinted along the sideline to score for a 21-0 lead. Ayers made his first career interception to set up a field goal for a 24-3 halftime lead.

There was no letup in the second half by the Titans, who opened the third period with an eight-minute, 85-yard touchdown drive.

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