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Dolphins-Chargers Preview

Sep 25, 2009 - 8:29 PM By ANTHONY GIORNALISTA STATS Senior Writer

Though they have had little trouble stopping the run, the Miami Dolphins are winless after two games once again. Shutting down the San Diego Chargers' ground attack, though, seems certain to pay dividends.

The Dolphins, 0-2 for the fourth straight season, look to extend a seven-game winning streak against the injury-riddled Chargers on Sunday.

Miami lost 27-23 to Indianapolis on Monday night, falling to the bottom of the AFC East despite limiting the Colts to 61 yards on the ground. The Dolphins allowed 68 yards rushing in their season opener Sept. 13, but lost 19-7 to Atlanta.

"Nobody is world champion after two weeks," linebacker Joey Porter said, "but we're not good enough to give games away."

Notching a win Sunday against a strong team may prove to be a tough task for the Dolphins, who are coming off a short week. Miami, however, has won seven straight against San Diego (1-1) since a 45-20 road loss Dec. 27, 1993.

The Dolphins won 17-10 at home Oct. 5 in the teams' last meeting, limiting the Chargers to 60 yards on the ground. Miami has surrendered an average of 71.7 rushing yards during its run versus San Diego.

LaDainian Tomlinson, who ran for 35 yards on 12 carries against Miami last year, will not play Sunday. He suffered an ankle injury in a 24-20 win over Oakland on Sept. 14 and sat out a 31-26 loss to Baltimore last Sunday.

This will be only the third time Tomlinson, the NFL's MVP in 2006, has missed a game due to injury during his nine-year career.

The Chargers, who were also missing center Nick Hardwick (ankle) and right guard Louis Vasquez (knee), had 53 yards on the ground against the Ravens. Hardwick had surgery and is expected to miss eight weeks, while Vasquez is uncertain for Sunday.

Darren Sproles started in place of Tomlinson and rushed for 26 yards on 10 carries. Sproles did catch seven passes for a career-high 124 yards and a touchdown.

Sproles and Philip Rivers almost single-handedly kept the Chargers in the game. Rivers threw for a career-high 436 yards and two TDs, but also had two interceptions. San Diego had to settle for field goals four times when it had the ball at the Ravens' 10 or closer.

The Chargers went into the season having been picked by some as Super Bowl contenders, but coach Norv Turner's team has been shaky in the early going.

"I don't think right now we're as good as you that cover us think or expect us to be; I don't think we're as good as what our fans want us to be," Turner said. "But I believe we can get there. We've got a lot of work to get there."

San Diego appeared to be the favorite to win its fourth straight AFC West title, but it trails undefeated Denver, which collapsed down the stretch last year and allowed the Chargers to take the division at 8-8.

"I guess it kind of seems that the expectation outside of the building is that we never should lose a game, we should score every single time in the red zone, we should never punt," Rivers said. "It's just a little bit unrealistic."

While too much may be expected of San Diego, Miami is trying to prove it is better than it's shown. The defending AFC East champion Dolphins couldn't win last week even though Peyton Manning and the Colts had the ball for less than 15 minutes.

Manning still managed to throw for 303 yards and two TDs, and now the Dolphins will try to stop Rivers from having another big game.

"I think a lot of Rivers," Miami coach Tony Sparano said. "He is a big, strong guy that stands in there. He doesn't watch the rush and makes some outstanding throws. San Diego has been a physical team year in and year out, and they run a lot of physical, hardball, downhill run stuff."

The Dolphins' running game certainly poses a formidable threat of its own. Miami rushed for 239 yards and a TD against Indianapolis.

When the Dolphins lost their first two games last year, Sparano went to the wildcat formation and it helped Miami upset New England 38-13. The Dolphins used that package 12 times Monday and it yielded 107 yards on the ground.

Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams have a combined 287 yards rushing. Brown had 125 yards and a TD in last season's matchup with San Diego.