McNair threw for 201 yards and two touchdowns, and Tennessee beat Miami 31-7 Sunday for its fourth straight victory and sixth in the past seven games. Minutes later, the Titans watched in the locker room as the Jaguars beat Indianapolis and moved the Titans into a tie with the Colts.
“I guess the race is on as far as the players are concerned,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher said.
The Titans, trying not to look ahead to their Dec. 7 game with Indianapolis, are starting to look like the team that won the AFC South last season by taking 10 of 11 games in one span.
Miami (5-4) came in allowing just 13.8 points per game, best in the NFL, and the Dolphins had been unbeaten on the road this season. None of that mattered against the Titans, who snapped a five-game skid against Miami.
Tennessee improved to 7-2 by setting a franchise record of scoring 30 or more points for the sixth straight game. The defense sacked Brian Griese four times and forced him into two fumbles and three interceptions that the Titans turned into 17 points.
“What’s better for an offense than to see the defense score?” McNair asked.
Coach Dave Wannstedt said the Dolphins knew what to expect. Now a team that targeted the Super Bowl finds itself in serious trouble.
“There’s no turning back now. If we’re going to do anything, if we’re going to make a run, it starts this week,” Wannstedt said.
McNair lost his first three starts against Miami. This time, he came in as the NFL’s top-rated passer, and his offensive line kept Miami from sacking him at all. The Dolphins had a chance at only one interception, but the ball bounced off safety Brock Marion’s hands in the first quarter.
Instead, McNair picked apart a defense already missing Pro Bowl linebacker Zach Thomas (strained groin). Cornerback Patrick Surtain, who leads the AFC with six interceptions, stayed on the sideline with a sprained ankle.
“I got that monkey off my back finally …,” McNair said. “Today, I just wanted to be patient, take what they gave me and not hurt the team in a way to stop any drives.”
Tennessee so controlled the game that McNair, who was 17-of-23, went to the bench early in the fourth quarter.
The Titans held the ball for more than 37 minutes, including nearly 12 of the first quarter in which they had 162 yards offense compared to just 21 for Miami. They finished with 324 yards compared to 224 for Miami.
McNair started the Titans off quickly as he went 3-for-4 for 68 yards on the first possession, which he capped with a 12-yard toss to rookie Tyrone Calico, who dived into the end zone.
Miami won a challenge of a 25-yard TD pass to Calico on which his right foot was out of bounds on the next drive, but that only postponed the inevitable. The Titans held the ball for six more plays and scored on a 2-yard TD run by Eddie George for a 14-0 lead.
Griese, starting his third straight game, was sacked three times and fumbled twice in the first half alone. Robaire Smith stripped him on the third sack just before halftime, and Albert Haynesworth recovered and ran 12 yards to the Miami 24 .
“We couldn’t run it, and we couldn’t throw it,” Griese said. “That is not a good combination.”
Facing the NFL’s stingiest run defense, Miami never got Ricky Williams going. He finished with 13 carries for 37 yards, and the Dolphins managed just 59 rushing overall.
The Titans have won nine straight at home. They also have outscored opponents 55-0 in the first quarter of their past four games. … Tennessee extended its NFL-best streak to 25 home games without allowing a 100-yard rusher. … Titans DE Kearse now has had at least one sack in six straight games. … Miami WR Kendall Newson, just activated off the practice squad, had a 37-yard reception for the first catch of his career. … The Dolphins were1-for-10 on third-down conversions.