MIAMI (AP)—Daunte Culpepper endured five sacks, threw no touchdown passes and still managed to put a positive spin on his latest erratic performance.
He merely noted the final score.
Culpepper roused a slumberous offense just enough in the fourth quarter Sunday, directing a 50-yard drive that set up a field goal to help Miami beat hapless Tennessee 13-10.
“It’s always good to win, no matter how you get it, by 20 points or by one,” Culpepper said.
Sacks, poor passes and blocking breakdowns kept the score close, and two winless teams looked the part for most of the game. Culpepper was limited to 168 yards passing, and his sack total for the season rose to 15, but the win represented a big step forward in his comeback from reconstructive knee surgery last November.
“The more I play, I think the better I’m going to get,” the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback said. “It’s all timing. When we get it down, this team is going to be like a wild fire.”
The Dolphins improved to 1-2—not bad considering they’ve scored only four touchdowns. Tennessee is 0-3 for the sixth time since the franchise was founded in 1960.
“We did the things that will give us some wins down the road, but it hurts being in this position right now,” defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth said. “No matter how you look at it, we’re 0-3, and that puts us at the bottom of the standings.”
Miami’s Ronnie Brown rushed for 90 yards, including a 27-yard gain to set up a tie-breaking 39-yard field goal by Olindo Mare with 3:39 left. But for much of the day, the Dolphins’ best weapon was punter Donnie Jones, who averaged 52.7 yards on six kicks.
“We’ve got a lot of things to improve on,” coach Nick Saban said. “No one is denying that. But this was a great win for our players.”
Linebacker Zach Thomas said Saban helped by encouraging the Dolphins to approach the game like a high school team.
“He talked about the bus ride to the game when you’re 17 or 18 years old,” Thomas said. “You’re not worried about who is making how much money. You’re just worried about beating the guy in front of you. It motivated me.”
The Titans are no high school team, but they’re 1-12 on the road since Nov. 21, 2004.
“We deserved better than what happened today,” quarterback Kerry Collins said. “Guys played their hearts out.”
For the first time in the Titans’ three games, rookie quarterback Vince Young didn’t play. Collins passed for 269 yards and his first touchdown this season, but he also overthrew open receivers several times.
That was one of three costly turnovers on pass plays for the Titans, and their ground game wasn’t much better. In one sequence, they lost 5 and 4 yards on consecutive running plays.
Tennessee played without running back Chris Brown, inactive because of a toe injury.
The sunny, 88-degree weather appeared to take a toll on the visitors, and several Titans had to be helped to the bench in the second half. Penalties hurt them, too. Pacman Jones broke into the clear on a punt return with 8 1/2 minutes left, but an illegal block by Quinton Ganther negated the gain.
Third-string tight end Bo Scaife scored for Tennessee, beating linebacker Thomas deep and making a leaping, one-handed catch for a 27-yard touchdown.
On the Titans’ next possession, Scaife was stripped of the ball at the 2 by Will Allen, and Miami’s Andre Goodman recovered.
“That changed the game,” Thomas said.
“I’m sick right now,” Scaife said. “I hate losing just as much as anyone else.”
The Dolphins totaled 103 yards in the first half, and the crowd booed when they left the field. They then drove 80 yards for the go-ahead touchdown on the first possession of the second half.
Culpepper scored on a 5-yard run to put Miami ahead 10-7.
“We’re not fooling ourselves into thinking we’re farther along than we are,” Culpepper said. “But we’ve got the players to have a real good offense.”
Titans RG Zach Piller limped off with an ankle injury in the second quarter. … Daniels was back in the lineup after missing the first two games with an ankle injury. … The Dolphins announced a sellout crowd of 72,733, but there were at least 20,000 no-shows.