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Miami Dolphins act, feel like a football team again

NASHVILLE -- Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross told players and coaches after Sunday's victory over the Tennessee Titans that "the sleeping giants have awoken."

And, yes, the Dolphins played very well in their 38-10 victory. But interim coach Dan Campbell was smarter than making grand proclamations about his team. Instead he stressed to his team that they now have a model for winning and they need to keep following and building on that model to keep succeeding.

You know, Campbell has this budding reputation as a brawny, rah-rah, crazy man. I think that's a caricature that doesn't do him justice because he is more than that. He showed me something Sunday evening when delivered a post-game talk that, as I wrote, connected with players.

Campbell was also smart enough to understand his mission is currently 12 games long and he has only gotten beyond the first of those. There is much more to do. There is much more that needs to be addressed.

The emotional guy who was worried before the game about throwing up on his shoes, as he said, was in control throughout and recognized that even his postgame speech was a teaching opportunity..

The Dolphins got great performances from players they need to get great performances from. Coaches tweaked the rush lanes for the defensive ends and obviously that tweak helped. Cameron Wake had four sacks. Olivier Vernon had one sack. It was the first time this season either one reached the quarterback for a sack.

No more wide rushes for Miami's ends. They took the more direct route to the QB.

(In Vernon's case, the route to Marcus Mariota included two fouls called on his tactics and Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt ripped the player afterward. "It's not the way you play football," he said. "I think it was done with the idea of trying to hurt our quarterback and that's [BS] football.")

Alrightie, then.

Brent Grimes, clearly not 100 percent as he returns from a sprained MCL, had an athletic diving interception. Reshad Jones, who has played very well in wins and losses, told me he recognized the formation from film study and that helped put him in position for his pick six.

Lamar Miller was decisive with his running.

The offensive line was physical.

"I felt all our guys had that," Mike Pouncey told me. "You watch the film, we moved those guys off the ball all day long."

It wasn't perfect.

Ndamukong Suh is still curiously unimpressive. He had no solo tackles. He did get credited with two passes defensed.

Ryan Tannehill's day was up and down. Two touchdown passes is great. But he also threw two interceptions. One of the picks probably wasn't all on him as there was miscommunication with a receiver. But they don't hand out interception stats for receivers so ... it remains an issue that needs correction.

Look, this is the type of effort the Dolphins were expected to deliver every game when the season began. Fans don't expect an undefeated team but they expect one that seems interested, engaged, into the assignment.

The Dolphins looked like that for the first time on Sunday.

That, I wouldn't say, merits a grand proclamation that giants have been shaken from their sleep. This isn't America awakening after Pearl Harbor.

But major step in the right direction? Absolutely.

The Dolphins are not painful to watch now. They acted like a football team on Sunday.