Through nine games,
This Sunday, Rivers will need to put the ball on the money when they face an opportunistic Miami Dolphins’ defense that thrives on intercepting the ball.
The Dolphins have picked off 12 passes this season, the second highest number in the league to date. Leading the way is Dimitri Patterson, whose four interceptions are second most in the NFL trailing only Tennessee’s Alterraun Verner. Another dangerous thief in Miami’s secondary is Brent Grimes, who’s two interceptions include a 94-yard pick six against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt acknowledged the dangers of throwing against the talented Dolphins secondary, noting that it all starts with the pressure they are able to establish up front.
“They’re an opportunistic group,” he said. “They’ve got a good front. They can put pressure on the quarterback with a four man rush. When they can do that, they can keep the extra guys on the back end and it gives them opportunities. They take chances on breaking on plays and they’re a good unit defensively.”
Overall, the Dolphins rank 11th in the NFL in sacks. Leading that front seven is the dangerous Cameron Wake, who has 5.5 sacks on the year. Close on his tail is Olivier Vernon with 4.5 sacks and Jared Odrick with 3.5. Overall, Head Coach Mike McCoy agrees that Miami’s ability to pressure the quarterback and collapse the pocket is disruptive, which he credits to the team’s defensive coordinator, Kevin Coyle.
“Defensively, this coordinator has always done a nice job of getting after the quarterback,” he said. “There are some looks they run that not everyone in the league runs, whether he was in Cincinnati or Miami, he gets after the quarterback. You have to do a great job with communication and making sure everyone is on the same page in certain looks that they have and certain pressures they bring. We have to protect the quarterback.”
That quarterback certainly knows the talent he’ll be facing on Sunday. Rivers listed a litany of reasons why they’ve been so effective, acknowledging that the Chargers will have to be at their best to get the ball into the end zone.
“They have some challenging blitz packages,” he said. “They really fly around…It's a good front and a very smart secondary. They are obviously very talented and athletic, (and) they play very smart. You can tell they prepare well as far as reading routes and things they do. And their defensive backs can catch the ball. Their linebackers run around. (Dannell Ellerbe) and (Philip Wheeler) really fly around and they can rush the passer. Every week in this league is going to present challenges. There is no such thing as a week where you turn on the tape and go 'Ok, this defense isn't very good'. Every week is an NFL defense and we have another one on our hands on Sunday."