Even though the banged-up San Diego Chargers are facing some adversity following back-to-back losses, linebacker Dwight Freeney believes they need to focus on the big picture.
The Chargers look to get back on track Sunday while putting an end to a three decade-long road drought against the Miami Dolphins, who seek their first three-game winning streak in almost a year.
San Diego (5-3) had been on a roll with five consecutive wins to claim the AFC’s best record heading into Week 7 before losing 23-20 to visiting Kansas City on Oct. 19 and falling 35-21 at division-leading Denver just four days later.
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The Chargers also had a difficult time at winless Oakland on Oct. 12 before pulling out a 31-28 victory.
"You have to be able to understand that it’s not all bad when you lose and it’s not all good when you win," Freeney said. "It’s about the team that is standing at the end. We are going to play a Dolphins team that does a lot of things."
San Diego’s once-heralded defense has allowed an average of 28.6 points and 395.3 yards over its last three games after surrendering just 17.2 and 290.8 in its first five.
Freeney has been playing through a sore knee, while the status of safety Jahleel Addae (concussion) is uncertain after he was knocked out of the Denver game.
On the first play from scrimmage, Addae made a hit and immediately went limp on the ground. He convulsed while remaining on his feet after a helmet-to-helmet hit late in the third quarter.
George Atallah, the assistant executive director of external affairs for the NFLPA, said the players’ union is looking into the Chargers’ handling of Addae. Coach Mike McCoy said the team followed proper medical procedure.
"It hasn’t been our best ball. I know we are kind of banged up," Freeney added. "But this is the NFL and the other team doesn’t care. So we have to find a way to somehow put our best product out there."
The Chargers will be without rookie cornerback Jason Verrett for at least this game and possibly longer with a torn labrum in his left shoulder, but cornerback Brandon Flowers was cleared to practice Thursday after missing the Denver game with a concussion.
San Diego may be able to regroup defensively against Miami, which overcame a poor showing on offense with two interception returns for touchdowns in Sunday’s 27-13 victory at Jacksonville.
The Dolphins (4-3) went three-and-out on their first three series, totaled three first downs in the opening half and scored just 13 points offensively overall. They rank 25th with 231.3 passing yards per game despite posting their first back-to-back wins since a three-game run in December.
"It’s frustrating. It has got to change," said receiver Mike Wallace, who was held to two catches for 59 yards while his three-game scoring streak came to an end. "We’re not going to get nowhere like that."
Ryan Tannehill completed 16 of 29 passes for 196 yards – his fewest since Week 1 – with one touchdown and one interception. He’s had to perform under pressure, getting sacked seven times in his last two games.
"It has to be better," the third-year pro said. "We have to get this corrected."
Tannehill has struggled in three home games, connecting on 55.3 percent of his throws for 627 yards with five scores and three picks.
In his only career start versus San Diego, Tannehill threw for 268 yards with one touchdown and one interception in a 20-16 home win Nov. 17. Charles Clay had six catches for 90 yards and the go-ahead score in the third quarter.
The Dolphins have won the past seven home meetings, including divisional playoff wins in 1983 and 1993. The Chargers haven’t won in Miami since an unforgettable 41-38 overtime victory in the divisional playoff round on Jan. 2, 1982.
Now Miami might be able to extend that streak by sticking to its rushing attack, which ranks sixth with 138.0 yards per game. The Chargers haven’t been able to slow the run of late, allowing 293 yards in their last two losses.
Daryn Colledge is hoping to play for the Dolphins after suffering through a migraine against the Jaguars. The guard has never missed a game in his nine-year career.
Since putting up 303.6 yards per game with 14 touchdowns and one interception during San Diego’s winning streak, Philip Rivers hasn’t been as sharp with an average of 228.5 yards and three picks in his last two.
The veteran has completed 56.5 percent of his passes – well below his 64.6 career mark – for 457 yards with two TDs and one interception while losing both his starts in Miami.
Rivers will try to help end the slide in Miami against a secondary that is allowing a league-low 10.2 yards per pass.
It appears Dolphins coach Joe Philbin will be on the sidelines, having rejoined the team Saturday after missing practice the previous two days following the death of his father.