Here are five keys to the game heading into Sunday’s match between the San Diego Chargers and the Miami Dolphins: 1. Stop the Run –
The Miami rushing attack has been a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde story this season. Just look at the last two weeks alone. In their win over the Cincinnati Bengals they ran for 157 yards, while in their loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers they had just two. Lamar Miller is averaging 4.5 yards per carry for the Fins, who rank 25th
in the league with 87.0 yards per game on the ground. The Bolts, meanwhile, rank 20th
in the NFL, allowing 114.6 yards per game. According to Manti Te’o, stopping the run is imperative:
“They have a good offense. They have a lot of weapons and a lot of speed. Every game in the NFL is going to be hard, so we have to play our game. We have to stop the run. We have to execute our assignments and tackle well. (Ryan) Tannehill can scramble too so we have to be ready for that also.”
2. Protect the Football
– The Miami Dolphins boast one of the most dangerous defenses when it comes to forcing turnovers. They have the second most interceptions in the league with 12, and Dmitri Patterson ranks second in the league with four picks. Their entire defense works as one, with the team getting strong pressure from their front seven, which allows their defense to be aggressive and go after the football. Philip Rivers
weighed in on the dangers the Dolphins present:
“It's going to take a heck of an effort. It's a good front and a very smart secondary. They are obviously very talented, athletic and all that, but 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.”
3. Where’s Wallace?
– The Chargers need to be aware of where Dolphin’s wide receiver Mike Wallace is on the football field at all times. The prized free agent acquisition has the ability to stretch the defense as well as any player in the league. While he has struggled at times this season, he can break a big play off at any given time, so the team can’t let up against him. Defensive Coordinator John Pagano stressed the importance of keeping Wallace in check, admitting that the defense has given up too many big plays so far this season:
"You have to be very aware, because he is a big time deep threat type of player. We played against him last year when he was with Pittsburgh. He is someone that is very explosive in route running, coming in and out of breaks. We have to do a good job of staying on top and being aware of that. We have to make sure he doesn't hurt us. That has been a nemesis for us all season. We have to eliminate these big plays. That's our focus”
4. Keep Rivers Upright
– The Chargers offensive line has done a good job of keeping their quarterback upright and off his back. In fact, they are near the top of the league in not allowing the QB to take a hit. They will need to continue excelling in that area against the speedy pass rush of Cameron Wake and the Dolphins. It is still unknown which five players will constitute the offensive line this week with King Dunlap
and Nick Hardwick
working their way back from injuries. Nonetheless, Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt noted the importance of the other 10 players in keeping Rivers upright as well:
“We want to be the best in the league. I know we were or are in the top five. From that standpoint I'm pleased, but it's really hard to be pleased, when we don't have more wins. I think our guys are driven to get better and better. That's what we want to do, although you do have to recognize the fact that there are a lot of things that they are doing well…As far as the quarterback and protection, it has been a group effort and that includes the tight ends and the backs. It's great to see these guys working well together."
5. “One Week at a Time”
– With seven games to go the race for the playoffs is starting to take shape. That said, the Chargers aren’t looking that far ahead, instead keeping their focus on winning one game at a time. Head Coach McCoy was asked if this game had any extra importance given that the Chargers and Dolphins share the same record, but he reiterated that he wants his team to simply focus on the task at hand and not worry about any possible distractions:
“We are not worrying about the playoffs at all. That's the furthest thing from our minds. Right now we are looking to go in there and beat Miami. It’s one week at a time right now. We have a lot of football left and there is a lot of football to be played before any of that is determined. There is going to be a lot of changes and stuff as time goes on, so our number one concern is going in and finding a way to win this week and that's it."