Williams, Dolphins struggle on offense
Tennessee shut down Ricky Williams, who failed to go over 100 yards for the sixth straight game.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Dave Wannstedt vowed last week that Ricky Williams and Miami's struggling running attack would finish as the league's best in the final eight weeks of the season. Too bad the Titans heard those words.
"They've got seven games to do it," Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth said.
"Not this game."
"They will have to start next week because they didn't do it this week," Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck said.
Once again, Willliams didn't get 100 yards. The Titans limited him to 37 yards on 13 carries in a 31-7 blowout. And don't question the play-calling in this game. Williams may have had only 13 rushing attempts, but the Titans led 14-0 in the first quarter. The Dolphins tried to run the ball in the third quarter, but the room wasn't there.
Williams could have had 30 carries, but he would been hard-pressed to gain more than 90 yards against the Titans run defense.
"By the time Ricky got the ball, we already had someone in his face," Bulluck said. "When that happens, he has to commit. We didn't want to give him time to look for his holes."
Four of his 13 attempts went for negative yardage. His longest run of 15 yards came in a two-minute drill toward the end of the first half. Williams has been held under 100 yards in six consecutive games. He has 350 yards on 117 carries in those games.
"That's the whole focus for us this week, to shut down their running back because their whole offense revolves around him," Bulluck said. "By stopping him early, they weren't able to do the things they do successfully. We knew we could force them to throw."
Williams is a runner who excels hitting the seams. Because of poor run blocking along the offensive line, the seams weren't there. Williams also isn't breaking the tackles he broke last season in leading the league in rushing.
"I don't know," Williams said. "I think we're tired of pointing fingers and trying to figure out what happened. We just have to come back on Wednesday and get to work. Whatever it is, we're going to work through it. The only frustrating thing is we've lost two games in a row. I'm not a stat guy. Obviously, if we run the ball well, we seem to win the game."
Another problem is the pass game. Brian Griese was once again a standing target behind the line. He's been sacked 10 times in three starts and has committed seven turnovers, including four fumbles and three interceptions.
“ I don't know. I think we're tired of pointing fingers and trying to figure out what happened. We just have to come back on Wednesday and get to work. Whatever it is, we're going to work through it. The only frustrating thing is we've lost two games in a row. I'm not a stat guy. Obviously, if we run the ball well, we seem to win the game. ” — Ricky Williams, Dolphins RB
It's looking more and more as though Jay Fiedler will get back the starting job when he's healthy, but his injured left knee isn't healthy. Fiedler was the third quarterback Sunday.
"Brian was put in a very tough situation from the standpoint you're down 14-0, and there is all type of pressure put on him," coach Dave Wannstedt said.
The Dolphins are now 5-4, and their playoff hopes are fading.
Left tackle Wade Smith can't handle speed rushers such as Dwight Freeney, Jevon Kearse or Carlos Hall. The middle was getting destroyed by defensive tackles Haynesworth and Robaire Smith. Smith crunched Williams with a hard hit early in the game.
"We were physical," Titans safety Lance Schulters said. "I think when Robaire hit Ricky, I don't think he wanted any more. We were attacking."
The Dolphins have seven weeks to make their running attack formidable.
John Clayton is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.
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