MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (Dec. 24, 2005) -- A workhorse once more, Ricky Williams wore down the Tennessee Titans until his final carry took him into the end zone, where he celebrated the touchdown that clinched the Miami Dolphins' latest victory.
In his best performance since returning from a one-year retirement, Williams gained 172 yards in 26 rushes and helped Miami cap a perfect December by beating Tennessee 24-10.
Williams has shared carries most of the season with Ronnie Brown. When knee and ankle injuries left the rookie inactive, Williams assumed his heaviest workload of the season.
"As the game goes on, I usually get stronger and more comfortable and have a better feel for what to do," the 2002 NFL rushing champion said. "Life is about opportunities. Unfortunately, Ronnie was down, so this week I made the most of the opportunity."
The Dolphins (8-7), eliminated from playoff contention last week, have won five in a row for the first time since 1999. They went 4-0 in December under first-year coach Nick Saban, finishing the month unbeaten for the first time in 20 years.
"To watch this team grow and be part of it has been special," Williams said. "We've made strides, and we can be confident that we can go into next season strong."
The Titans (4-11) matched their 2004 loss total with one game still to go. They also lost quarterback Steve McNair, who strained a pectoral muscle in pregame warmups and came out in the second quarter.
"It got sore and more sore as the game went on," McNair said. "It hurt more when I threw."
Williams was dazed by a tackle in the fourth quarter, but quickly rejoined the lineup and looked even stronger and faster down the stretch. The 100-yard game was his first since 2003.
"I am so happy for Ricky," Saban said. "He has played a great role for this team all year. He has been unselfish and has been a really good team guy."
Nursing a 17-10 lead with less than 2½ minutes left, Miami put the game in Williams' hands. He broke loose for a season-best 35-yard run and scored on a 19-yard run to clinch the victory.
"We have a great deal of respect for Ricky," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. "But we never expected them to do that to our defense, especially when we were in some must-stop situations."
Miami's Chris Chambers caught touchdown passes of 11 and 7 yards and surpassed 1,000 yards receiving in a season for the first time in his five-year career. He made five receptions for 51 yards and has scored in each of the past four games.
Tennessee's only touchdown came on a 55-yard pass from Billy Volek to Drew Bennett.
Otherwise, Volek struggled against a heavy pass rush, finishing 14-for-24 for 132 yards. He was sacked four times and lost his helmet as he threw an incompletion when hit by blitzing cornerback Reggie Howard.
McNair went 5-for-13 for 34 yards, and his final two throws were intercepted. Volek lost a fumble on a sack after the Titans reached the Miami 3-yard line on the first series of the second half.
"The only positive," Fisher said, "is that it's over."
Despite the Dolphins' fast finish, their bandwagon has yet to overflow. Announced attendance was a sellout of 72,001, but the stands were half empty for the Christmas Eve game.
Tank Williams recovered Gus Frerotte's fumble to give Tennessee a first down at the Miami 10, but the Titans settled for a 24-yard field goal by Rob Bironas and their only lead at 3-0.
Miami took advantage of a turnover to pull even. When the Titans' Ben Troupe attempted a one-handed catch, the ball deflected to linebacker Donnie Spragan, which set up Olindo Mare's 25-yard field goal.
McNair's next pass also was intercepted, by Sam Madison, and Miami then mounted a 61-yard drive capped by Chambers' 11-yard touchdown reception.
Following a punt, the Dolphins moved 48 yards in the final 1:43 of the half for another score. Chambers' second TD made it 17-3 at halftime.
Frerotte, a 12-year pro, tied his career high of 17 touchdown passes. He finished 14-for-30 for 151 yards.
- McNair said he's uncertain whether he'll be able to play in the final game Jan. 1 at Jacksonville.
- Dangerous Titans rookie Adam "Pacman" Jones was limited to 25 yards in eight punt returns.
- Williams' 100-yard game was the 30th of his career.
- The Dolphins rushed for 192 yards, their highest total since 2002.
The Associated Press News Service
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