Both of these teams really need a win this week, so look for a hard fought battle the whole way through. The Dolphins are probably shocked they've started the season at (0-2) and they lost a close one last week, so they will come out and play like their season is on the line. San Diego can't afford to lose a second home game in a row, especially since they're traveling to Pittsburgh next week to face the Super Bowl Champions. The helmets will fly in this one.
More than super-accurate "dink" passer Chad Pennington, the Chargers need to worry about the Wildcat and the running game with Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. Last week, the Dolphins exploited the soft middle of the Colts' defense with some option run plays up the middle. With Jamal Williams out, the Charger's middle is now soft as well. Stephen Cooper admitted that last week he wasn't aggressive enough, and Kevin Burnett hasn't shown he can stick his helmet in there and make a stop at the line of scrimmage when it matters. The inexperienced defensive tackles, Ogemdi Nwagbuo and Vaughn Martin were pushed around at times last week, probably due to lack of technique than lack of strength. The Chargers brought in a veteran Alfonso Boone this week, but he is a cast-off of the Chiefs, who aren't exactly stacked on defense. He seems like more of a desperation grab. The whole Chargers D has displayed poor tackling in the first two games. Hopefully they went back to the fundamentals this week.
With this situation, someone else is going to have show some run stopping toughness. San Diego can't afford to fall behind as they did last week, and let the Dolphins grind the clock and keep the ball away from the offense. Hopefully, Ron Rivera will stack the box, forcing the Miami to rely more on Pennington, or dare Ronnie Brown to fling a pass down field out of the Wildcat.
If the Chargers can get a lead and force Pennington to throw, I actually think the defense matches up well with a short passing offense. Both Cromartie and Jammer can play excellent man to man, while Cooper and Philips and Burnett have shown strong athletic ability in coverage. Deep balls aimed at Clinton Hart or Steve Gregory are what give this defense the most trouble.
The Charger's offense has proven it can move the ball against anyone. The challenge this week is going to be punching it in the end zone. Look for Norv to make a much more concerted effort to run the ball with Michael Bennett, who didn't get much of a chance last week.
In the passing game, Rivers will take advantage of his tall receivers again with big plays over the smaller Miami DB's. If the Dolphins focus too much on stopping Vincent Jackson, Chris Chambers and Malcolm Floyd, look for Gates to have a big game over the middle.
Lastly, San Diego has that magical wild card in Darren Sproles. Whether on kick off returns or in the screen game, even when you, I, the other coaches, the fans in the stadium and the cheerleaders can see it coming, he manages to make a cut a full speed that no one else can make, and wind his way down the field for huge play after huge play. He will again this week.
Chargers 27, Dolphins 24
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