Work in Sports
Madison returned three interceptions for 115 yards and Damon Huard threw a pair of touchdown passes as the Dolphins suffocated the Titans, 17-0, for their fifth consecutive victory.
"I haven't been getting many balls but today I got a lot of them thrown at me and I made the best of them," said Madison, who was battling an upset stomach that caused him to briefly come out of the game in the third quarter. "I came down with three interceptions and got our offense some field position to put some points on the board."
Madison, who tied for the team lead with eight interceptions last season, became the first Dolphin to have three picks in a game since Louis Oliver at Buffalo on October 4, 1992. Miami's Dick Anderson shares the NFL record of four against Pittsburgh on December 3, 1973.
"This is one of the best games I've had," Madison added. "It was extremely tough for me. I was a little dizzy and a little woozy out there but I fought through it and came up with some great plays."
Miami's defense, ranked third overall, has not allowed a TD in 14 quarters, the NFL's longest streak since 1993. The Dolphins (7-1) have not surrendered an offensive touchdown since the second quarter of a 31-30 win over New England on October 17.
In the last three games, Miami has yielded only 22 points, including an interception return for a touchdown by Philadelphia safety Brian Dawkins on October 24.
"That was a big win for our football team," Miami coach Jimmy Johson said. "Defensively, we did an excellent job of keeping a talented offense out of the end zone. With us having a 17-point lead, we decided to pull back a little bit and run some time off the clock and play defense and special teams."
The win gave the Dolphins a one-game lead over idle New England and Indianapolis in the rugged AFC East. Miami is off to its first 7-1 start since 1990 but Johnson downplayed the significance of the win.
"This is not a statement," he said. "The only statement we are making now is that we are better than the seven teams that we have played. We have got a lot more to play."
The loss, coupled with Jacksonville's victory over Atlanta, snapped the Titans' three-game winning streak and dropped them one game behind the Jaguars in the AFC Central.
"We did not get on track offensively," Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher said. "Give credit to the Dolphins defense for turning the ball over and making plays."
Miami recorded its third shutout in its last 11 home games while the Titans (6-2) were blanked for the first time since a 34-0 loss at Kansas City on November 26, 1989, when they were known as the Houston Oilers. They had gone 155 contests without being shut out, the second-longest streak in the NFL behind San Francisco's record string of 346 games.
Miami held off a Tennessee drive in the final minute to preserve the shutout after Steve McNair's 40-yard toss to Chris Sanders gave the Titans 1st-and-goal at the 9.
After spiking the ball and throwing an incompletion, McNair tossed a six-yard completion to Kevin Dyson on third down. But Tennessee could not score as McNair's fourth-down pass to Dyson fell incomplete in the end zone.
"It (the shutout) was a big thing for us," Madison said. "I was real emotional about it and I'm glad we stopped them. If they would have gotten in the end zone, those three interceptions wouldn't have meant anything."
Looking more comfortable in the pocket, Huard improved to 3-0 as starter since replacing injured Dan Marino, who still is sidelined with a cervical nerve root injury in his neck.
"I'm feeling pretty good right now but this is a team effort and our defense is outstanding and our special teams makes plays," Huard said. "Hopefully, we'll score a few more touchdowns down the road but we're scoring enough points and making enough big plays to win games."
Huard completed 15-of-25 passes for 210 yards and is the first Miami quarterback other than Marino to win three straight starts since David Woodley at the end of the 1982 season. Rookie Cecil Collins led the Dolphins with 41 yards on 14 carries.
Last week, McNair returned after missing six games due to back surgery and tossed two TD passes in the Titans' 24-21 victory over the previously unbeaten St. Louis Rams. He had no such success today, completing 22-of-42 for 205 yards with three interceptions. He also was sacked four times, facing relentless pressure.
"Very frustrating," McNair said. "They didn't do anything we didn't expect. When you turn the ball over, you can't expect to win, not against a team like this. I take full responsibility.
We have to correct mistakes, learn from it and go on."
"Sam made great plays," Fisher said. "We didn't lose the game because of McNair. We lost the game because we got beat. We started the second half with the ball and fully expected to get back in the game."
Following a scoreless first quarter, Huard tossed a six-yard TD pass to fullback Stanley Pritchett and a 43-yard scoring strike to Tony Martin in the second quarter, giving the Dolphins a 14-0 first-half lead.
The Titans marched to the Dolphins 14 on their second possession of the first quarter but Al Del Greco's 33-yard kick the left upright and caromed wide.
The Dolphins put together a 12-play, 77-yard drive to grab a 7-0 lead on Huard's TD pass to Pritchett 1:17 into the second period.
Tennessee again drove into Miami territory but turned the ball over on downs as Eddie George was held to three yards on 4th-and-5 from the Dolphins 35. George rushed for 65 yards on 14 carries.
Miami needed only two plays to score again. An eight-yard pass to running back Rob Konrad, coupled with a 15-yard face-mask penalty, gave the Dolphins a first down at the Tennessee 43 and set up Martin's TD reception.
Miami's Olindo Mare added a 46-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter.