The smallest player on the field made the Dolphins’ biggest play of Week 5.
Jakeem Grant, the 5-foot-7 rookie wide receiver, took a punt return 74 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter of Miami’s loss to the Titans Sunday.
Grant is known for his speed, and certainly showed it off during the return. But he only scored because his moves forced four missed Titans tackles.
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“Once I got to the second level and I knew I was matched up with the kicker and another guy, I just knew I was going all the way,” Grant said. “We went like three-and-out like two series in a row, and I was just trying to [make] a move, do anything I can to get the momentum on our side.”
That momentum was shortlived. While Grant tied the game at 7, the Titans scored on the next drive and led for the rest of the afternoon.
Grant had 118 return yards Sunday and also played from scrimmage. He rolled his ankle late in the first half, but was back on the field for the second half.
Rishard Matthews’ four years in Miami were more frustrating than fulfilling. He often butted heads with Joe Philbin, mostly over his role.
But Matthews caught 43 passes for 662 yards and four touchdowns in 2015, and parlayed that into a three-year, $15 million contract with the Titans.
On Sunday, he won as a visitor in the stadium he used to call home. Matthews caught four passes for 32 yards, the last of which was a four-yard, sky-scraping touchdown heave from Marcus Mariota.
“I didn’t say anything afterwards,” Matthews said. “It was just a play drawn up, go motion across and comeback underneath Tajae [Sharpe]. It was a great read by Marcus. He just threw it up, and I made a play for him.”
The Titans exploited the Dolphins’ season-long inability to tackle Sunday. Tennessee ran for 235 yards and averaged 5.7 yards per carry. DeMarco Murray went for 121 yards and Mariota added 60 more, including a 5-yard touchdown jaunt in the first quarter.
Dolphins players later identified the problem as a lack of physicality and poor tackling.
And if they didn’t hear the same criticism from their coaches Sunday, they can expect to Monday.
“We weren’t finishing our tackles,” Dolphins coach Adam Gase said. “That’ll kill you every time, especially with a running back like that.”
Another problem: the Dolphins’ defensive ends struggled to set the edge much of the afternoon.
Odds and ends
▪ Seven starters missed Sunday’s game due to injury: tackle Branden Albert (illness), Laremy Tunsil (ankle), cornerback Xavien Howard (knee), running back Arian Foster (groin/hamstring), linebacker Jelani Jenkins (groin), linebacker Koa Misi (neck) and tight end Jordan Cameron (concussion).
▪ Jay Ajayi started in Foster’s place and got the biggest work load of his career: 13 carries for 42 yards. Ajayi’s take: “I feel like I was able to do some good things on the ground; but at the same time, we have to be able to execute and stay on the field longer and keep those drives moving.”
▪ Defensive end Jason Jones blocked an extra point in the fourth quarter, his second blocked point-after-touchdown attempt of the season. The team record for the most blocked PATs by a Dolphins player in a single season is three by Wahoo McDaniel (1966).