After an absolute embarrassing and inexcusable loss this past Monday night to the then winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Miami Dolphins will now have to turn their attention over to the San Diego Chargers. With this weekend’s game potentially having huge implications on the AFC Wild Card race, it is easily one of the more important games for Miami this season. But despite Monday’s loss, the Dolphins are still in the playoff hunt. Sitting at 4-5, Miami is just one game back in the AFC Wild Card race.
Before I begin talking about this week’s game, let’s just take a quick look back at last week offensive performance. The first thing that stands out in my opinion is the horrid performance in the running game, as they were only able to amount two yards. It is very hard to win any game in this league, no matter who the opponent is with just two rushing yards. Tampa made Miami completely one dimensional and that is one of the biggest reasons as to why Miami was unable to win the game.
Next up is Ryan Tannehill. To me, he just played okay, however, the scoring drive later on in the game was quite impressive. Despite the late game success, he missed a lot of targets throughout the game. One, for example, was the throw to Mike Wallace down the sideline. He was open and Tannehill lead him out of bounds. Although he is pretty good at throwing the long ball, big plays such as those must be completed.
Sadly, the theme of this game was dumb penalties. Mike Pouncey’s penalty in the beginning of the game really set them back and the penalty on linebacker Philip Wheeler allowed Tampa Bay to kill more clock in the fourth quarter.
Now let’s take a look at the game against San Diego this weekend. Philip Rivers and the Chargers offense biggest strength is throwing the football. After having a bit of a down year the past two season, Rivers has bounced back with one of his strongest performances of his career. He is not turning the ball over quite as much as he did the past two seasons and is completing a higher percentage of his passes. San Diego is the fourth best team in the league when it comes to their passing game. The Dolphins, on the other hand, started off the season very slow in terms of pass defense. Fortunately, they have been able to turn things around a bit over the past few games. They are ranked 16th in the league in pass defense, which is a dramatic improvement to the 25th rank they had earlier in the season.
Unfortunately, the Dolphins might have to play their sixth game of the season without starting cornerback, Dmitri Patterson. Even with a return to practice on a limited basis, he is still not expected to play. Patterson, who has been having an issue staying healthy this season has had a huge impact while on the field. In just 12 quarters, Patterson has four interceptions. His four interceptions puts him tied for second in the league. There is no doubt about it, Patterson has been the best player in the secondary this season. If he cannot go again this weekend, Nolan Carroll will get the start again.
The Chargers are also one of the best teams in the league when it comes to protecting the quarterback. Rivers has only been sacked 16 times this season. They also lead the league in terms of quarterback hits, allowing just 27. The Dolphins must get to Rivers when they have the chance to.
After a three sack performance against the Cincinnati Bengals, Cameron Wake failed to record a sack against Tampa and only had two tackles in the game. Throughout the season, defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle has had both Cameron Wake and Dion Jordan on a leash for some odd reason. They have to do a better job at getting to the quarterback when they have the opportunity to. I say that because the Dolphins might chose to play a bit more conservative and drop back if Patterson does not play. Nolan Carroll is not a starting cornerback in this league. He gets beat way too much. He is most likely going to need some help this week as he will be challenged by rookie speedster, Keenan Allen.
Offensively, Miami must get the running game going. The Chargers biggest weakness is their defense. This is an excellent opportunity for Miami to run the ball. They cannot afford to have another one dimensional game offensively. It just can’t happen. San Diego also isn’t very good at defending the pass as they are ranked 28th in the league. There are two things the Dolphins must do against San Diego’s defense. First off, they cannot afford to give up sacks at the most important time of the game and second, Ryan Tannehill cannot turn the ball over like he has been doing. In the past four games he has five interceptions.
Hopefully, the long flight and time change can give the Dolphins the opportunity to get off to a good start. It happened last season when Seattle came to town and it happened two years ago when Denver came out flat for the first three quarters before scoring all of their 18 points in the fourth and overtime. This isn’t an impossible game for the Dolphins to win. Let’s see if they can go out there on Sunday and put all distractions aside and just play football.
Thanks for Reading!