Sunday, November 17, 2013
W2W4: Five things for Chargers-Dolphins
By Eric D. Williams
MIAMI -- A win on Sunday against the Miami Dolphins could vault the San Diego Chargers back into wild-card contention in the AFC.
But asked if he's paying attention to where his team sits in the hunt for a postseason berth, San Diego coach Mike McCoy answered like you would expect.
“That's the furthest thing from our minds,” he said. “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 No. 1 concern is going in and finding a way to win this week and that's it.”
McCoy's right. With seven games remaining, the Chargers still have the toughest schedule left in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information, with an opponent winning percentage of 66 percent. San Diego's remaining schedule includes two games against undefeated Kansas City, a game on the road at Denver and another one at home against AFC North leader Cincinnati.
So San Diego can't take the troubled Dolphins for granted. Still, a Chargers win keeps the playoffs a possibility.
Protect the football: Miami's defense does a good job of getting after the football, forcing 16 turnovers this season (12 interceptions) and converting those miscues into 40 points offensively. San Diego has turned it over 12 times this season, allowing opponents to score 41 points off of turnovers. So the Chargers need to do a good job of taking care of the football.
Get pressure on Tannehill: The Dolphins are playing without two of their starting offensive linemen because of the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin controversy. And quarterback Ryan Tannehill has paid the price. He's been sacked more than any other quarterback this season: 37 times. Tannehill has fumbled eight times, losing five of them, so there's a chance San Diego can shake the ball loose if the front four gets after Tannehill. San Diego has just two sacks over the past two games.
Slow down Mike Wallace: Wallace signed a five-year, $60 million contract this offseason with the Dolphins, but hasn't performed up to the level of the contract. Wallace has been targeted a team-high 77 times, but has scored just one touchdown, has just two 100-yard receiving games and has been held under 25 receiving yards four times this season, including last week against the Buccaneers. However, Wallace's speed still can give San Diego trouble.
“He is somebody who is very explosive in his route running, coming in and out of breaks,” Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano said about Wallace. “And we've got to do a good job. Our main thing is staying on top and being aware of that, making sure he doesn't hurt us. That's been a nemesis for us -- these big plays, we've got to eliminate that. That's our focus.”
Fix goal-line issues: Working on execution at the goal line remains a point of emphasis for the Chargers during the work week. San Diego appeared to fix that by using more of a power formation and finally handing the ball to Ryan Mathews, who scored on a 1-yard run against Denver last week. San Diego scores 53 percent of the time on the goal line on offense, No. 28 in the NFL. The Chargers face a Miami defense that allows a team to score a league-worst 94 percent of the time on the goal line.
Time for Cox to step up: Benched in two straight games, it's time for cornerback Derek Cox to play up to the level this team expected when San Diego signed him to a four-year, $20 million deal. Getting pulled from the game should be the farthest thing from his mind. Cox has the physical tools, he just needs to play aggressively and with great effort. The rest will take care of itself.