Dolphins-Chargers Gameday Keys


This week Miami travels across the country to San Diego to try to avoid falling to 0-2. I hate to use the term “must-win” in week three, but this game is a huge freaking must-win for Miami. Ideally if Miami can handle their business in San Diego they can get back to 2-2 the following week against Buffalo before a tough challenge at home against the Jets in week 5. Of course that will all be just wishful thinking of Miami can’t get off the snide and notch its first win of the ’09 season.

Keys to the Game:

Fatigue: In addition to beating the Chargers the Dolphins will also be up against fatigue and road legs. Miami is travelling across the continental US to play on just six days rest against a top-notch team. Traditionally I’ve never felt like Miami travels to the west coast all that well, but they’re going to need to avoid falling victim to that trend to have a shot in this one. It’s never ideal to make a trip like this period, let alone after a tough Monday night loss.

But in a way this will be the game that fleshes out the character of this team. Last year Miami’s collective backs were up against the wall and in week 3 they came out and showed a ton of grit in pounding the Patriots. Last year’s week 3 is similar to this year’s with both Miami teams at 0-2 after suffering both a tough defeat (Jets and Colts) and an ugly loss (bird teams). If Miami can come out with the same tenacity as it did in this position last year, they can reclaim their season. If not, we’ll always have those highlights of Ronnie Brown from that Patriots game…

Offense: Last week Miami’s offense looked solid for 57 minutes. Then they butchered a 2-minute drill in a legendary fashion. I have a theory that Miami just likes to put in memorable collapses on MNF. Between the Jumbo Elliott game and last Monday I’d just as soon go another four years between appearances in that wretched timeslot. That whole tangent is a great segue into the first key for the Dolphins offense though: forget last week.

I don’t mean from a teaching standpoint, there were mistakes to correct, but the offense can’t dwell on last week they have to move on. It happens more in college, but how often do you see a tough loss bleed over into the first half of the next game? That can’t afford to happen in San Diego. If Miami can build on their success running the ball from the week before they’ll be fine. San Diego is banged up. Shawn Merriman has been out from practice and Defensive Tackle Jamal Williams is done for the year with a torn triceps.

Miami can run the ball on this team. In fact, on paper the gameplan for the Colts and Chargers offensively is probably fairly similar. Attack a perceived weakness in the running game. Control the ball and keep a potent offense off the field. I’m sure Miami made sure to circle and highlight the portion of their gameplan that emphasized finishing drives this time. I won’t beat a dead horse but certain receivers need to do a better job of catching red zone passes. And where the hell is Patrick Turner? Didn’t Miami draft that kid so that on Sundays we wouldn’t be cursing at the Ted Ginn family about dropped touchdown passes? I’m going to think outside the box and blame last week’s loss on Patrick Turner.

At any rate, on offense Miami needs to build on the success of last week and finish drives while avoiding any hangover from last week. That’s not even simple to put into one tenuous (at best) sentence, let alone accomplish for 60 minutes on a Sunday. But if Miami is going to come out of San Diego with a win, it will need to happen.

Defensively: Up front the defense should be fine in this game. The Chargers amazingly only average 65 yards a game on the ground which is perfect because Miami has on average allowed just 64.5 on the ground in its first two contests. LT is not at 100 percent right now and Marcus McNeill on the San Diego line is battling injuries.

The passing game is what’s frightening. San Diego leads the league in passing right now, averaging well over 300 yards per game. Miami’s secondary has hemorrhaged yardage this season, especially to good tight ends, and San Diego will look to take huge advantage of that weakness. Above all else Miami needs to pay attention to Antonio Gates. In week one Tony Gonzalez made a few big plays to break our backs defensively. Last week Dallas Clark started and helped finish the game with big catches.

I don’t know whether it’s just Miami is prone to mental lapses or they really just can’t cover top notch tight ends, but some sort of defensive adjustment has to be made to take away Antonio Gates or else he’s going to eat the Dolphins secondary alive. As for the rest of the Chargers receiving corps Miami needs to watch Vincent Jackson specifically as he seems poised to take the next step and become a number on receiver in this league.

On the other side, as we should all know, you really only have to cover Chris Chambers for about the first 20 minutes because if you haven’t completed a pass to him by then he disappears for the rest of the day. All kidding aside, the Dolphins have always seemed to be fated in such a way that if there is going to be an offensive hero for San Diego, it’ll probably be Chambers just out of spite.

Final Thoughts: Miami can win this game but it won’t be easy. They need to kick the fatigue and get their legs under them quickly, but if they can do that this game seems set up for Miami to be able to run the ball and control the clock. The secondary will need to grow up quickly and have at least a solid day in order to win, but if they can Miami will be able to extend its win streak over the Chargers to eight.

Prediction: San Diego 24 Miami 21