MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. —** Marcus Mariota didn't start here on Thursday night, but that didn't keep the Titans from finishing the preseason in style.
With the team's starters on the bench, the Titans jumped out to an early lead here against the Dolphins and then cruised to a 21-10 win at Hard Rock Stadium.
Next up is the regular season opener against the Minnesota Vikings on September 11.
"I like the way we're playing,'' Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. "We are playing our style of football. It doesn't matter what the game is. It's preseason game four — people can say that — but this is how we play. I like what we're doing, and we're moving the ball by doing it. We have to quit making some mistakes with not taking what the defense gives us, but if we do that, we'll be fine."
The Titans took care of business early in this one, even with Mariota and running back DeMarco Murray watching from the sideline. Both players went through pregame warmups, but coach Mularkey elected to hold of them out of the preseason finale. The majority of the starters played one series before being replaced in the lineup.
The Titans jumped ahead 14-0 early, scoring first on a one-yard touchdown run by Derrick Henry just over a minute into the contest. It came after Titans safety Rashad Johnson recovered a fumble to end Miami's first possession.
"Getting that first stop was huge,'' Johnson said. "It was something that was plaguing us this preseason. Going into the season, we have to be able to stop opening drives and we haven't been able to do it all preseason. It was big for us to go out and get that off our backs. We know we can do it, but to go out and do it is a totally different thing."
A one-yard run by Antonio Andrews added to the scoring in the first quarter, and it capped off a drive when Henry ran wild through the Miami secondary. Henry ripped off runs of 22 and 26 yards en route to finishing the night with 62 yards on seven carries.
Henry finished the preseason with 216 yards on 34 carries (6.4-yard average), with three touchdowns.
"That's something that we preach all the time, being physical as a team and setting the tempo,'' Henry said. "That's what we wanted to do as an offense tonight. We came in and scored after the fumble recovery. Then we had a turnover, but we picked it back up in that third drive and got things going."
Matt Cassel started the game for the Titans, but threw just one pass before being replaced by Alex Tanney on the second drive of the game. Tanney played the rest of the way for the Titans, who led 21-7 at the half.
Andrews scored on a four-yard touchdown run after Miami got on the scoreboard with a one-yard touchdown run by Daniel Thomas. Miami cut the lead to 21-10 on a third quarter field goal.
Rookie safety Kevin Byard recorded an interception in the end zone to quash one Miami drive.
The Titans face a tough 24-48 hours coming up. By Saturday at 3 p.m., all clubs must be down to the regular-season limit of 53 players. The Titans trimmed the roster to 75 players earlier in the week.
"The last thing that I said to them was that the coaching staff appreciates everybody in this room, for the effort and what they've done since April," Mularkey said. "They've done everything we've asked them to do and they've played the style that we play. Obviously we can't keep everybody but nobody can walk out of here and leave that building when we make these decisions and not be proud of themselves for what they did. They did everything they could. Unfortunately we can't keep them all."
After some difficult decisions, the focus turns to the Vikings. The regular season is on the horizon.
"I think the offense has been ready for the season,'' tackle Taylor Lewan said. "We're playing as a team. The chemistry has been better than ever. We have plenty of talent. We just have to keep playing physically."
The Titans close out the 2016 preseason against the Dolphins in Miami. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)