When Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano announced last week that Chad Pennington would start at quarterback, he did so because the offense needed a spark. In the Dolphins' 29-17 victory over the Titans, the offense got a spark, but it came from unlikely sources — Chad Henne, the "Wildcat" and Tyler Thigpen.
The Dolphins pulled away in the second half, outscoring Tennessee 19-7 en route to their first home win of the season. Still trailing the Jets and Patriots by two games in the AFC East, the Dolphins remain in "must-win" mode heading into Thursday night's game against the Bears.
They also could be without Henne, OLT Jake Long and OLB Cameron Wake, making Sunday's emergence of the "Wildcat" and Thigpen even more crucial for Thursday.
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It was cruel irony that allowed Henne to retake the reins of the team when Pennington got hurt during his first series. Henne did throw an interception, but he led the team to 10 unanswered points in the third quarter.
In the third, Henne was 9-of-11 passing for 102 yards and a score in the Dolphins' first two drives of the quarter, giving them a 20-10 lead.
After Tennessee cut it to 20-17, Henne suffered a knee injury, and the Dolphins went to the "Wildcat."
Through eight games, the "Wildcat" had gained just 30 yards on 20 carries, being completely absent in three games and gaining just 1.5 yards per carry. But with Henne out and Sparano not ready to burn his No. 3 QB before the fourth quarter, the formation finally found success.
After an incomplete Brandon Marshall pass out of the "Wildcat," RB Ricky Williams had three rushes for 38 yards on handoffs from RB Ronnie Brown, and Brown carried once for three yards to set up a Dan Carpenter field goal.
On the next possession, Sparano and offensive coordinator Dan Henning decided to let it rip with Thigpen, and the fourth-year veteran didn't disappoint. He completed four passes in a row, culminating with a nine-yard TD pass to TE Anthony Fasano on 3rd-and-7 from the Titans' nine.
With Pennington done for the season and Henne likely out as well, the team will turn to Thigpen to get them back in the playoff hunt. If the second half of Sunday's game was any indication, Thigpen has the skill and confidence to lead the offense. If the "Wildcat" can continue its success, the Dolphins may be able to rack up some wins in ways thought to be impossible earlier in the season — Thigpen and the "Wildcat."