Chargers-Dolphins Preview

After a disheartening loss to the NFL’s last winless team, the

Miami Dolphins are looking to end their struggles and move past the

distractions caused by the Richie Incognito saga.

Tied with the Dolphins on the outside of the AFC playoff race,

the San Diego Chargers also hope to get right Sunday when they seek

their first win in Miami in almost 32 years.

Playing for the first time since allegations of bullying between

starting offensive linemen engulfed the locker room in controversy,

the Dolphins (4-5) lost for the fifth time in six games with a

22-19 setback at previously-winless Tampa Bay on Monday night.

Second-year tackle Jonathan Martin alleges he was harassed daily

by teammates, including Incognito, who has been suspended. Martin

left the team before last week’s game and is scheduled to meet with

an NFL special investigator, while owner Stephen Ross has formed

two committees to study the team’s locker room culture.

“We have good guys on this team who understand adversity and

understand how to handle it,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill said.

“This is a good test. I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m not saying it’s

fun to deal with. But I have faith in these guys.”

Now Miami coach Joe Philbin faces the challenge of keeping his

team focused on its goal of reaching the playoffs for the first

time since 2008.

Despite their recent swoon, the Dolphins trail the New York Jets

by just one game for the AFC’s sixth and final postseason spot.

While the Dolphins have allowed the most sacks in the league

(37) and figure to be even more vulnerable up front with Martin and

Incognito sidelined, San Diego’s pass rush has only managed a pair

of sacks over its last two games.

The Chargers (4-5) – also one game back in the playoff hunt, but

in 11th place when you include tiebreakers – hope to bounce back

after dropping games to Washington and Denver by a combined 14

points.

Since giving up a total of 15 points in consecutive wins over

Indianapolis and Jacksonville, San Diego has allowed 58 over the

past two weeks. Robert Griffin III and Peyton Manning combined to

complete 70.5 percent of their passes for 621 yards against the

Chargers, who rank 28th in the league with 279.6 passing yards

allowed per game.

“What happens when you play a good team like this, the little

mistakes blow up in a hurry,” said coach Mike McCoy after Manning

burned his team for four touchdown passes.

Tannehill will look to take advantage of San Diego’s scuffling

pass defense after completing 67.1 percent of his attempts for 437

yards with two scores and one pick in his last two games. He

connected on only 54.5 percent for 942 yards with seven touchdowns

and seven interceptions during the team’s four-game losing

streak.

Tannehill, however, would like to get some help from a running

game that was limited to a franchise-low two yards against the

Buccaneers. One game after posting the first 100-yard effort of his

career, Lamar Miller carried seven times for two yards – with a

long of four.

“We didn’t have any type of way to keep them off balance because

we weren’t able to establish the run,” Philbin said.

In the most recent meeting on Oct. 2, 2011, Philip Rivers

completed 21 of 31 passes for 307 yards and a touchdown in a 26-16

win over visiting Miami.

On Sunday, Rivers threw for 218 yards on 19 of 29 passing with

one score in a 28-20 home loss to the Broncos. He fired a

seven-yard scoring strike to Danny Woodhead, who has a team-high 53

catches for 408 yards and four touchdowns.

Rivers, who has a career-high 71.6 completion percentage, has

connected on 74.3 percent for an average of 328.0 yards with nine

touchdowns and five interceptions in five road games.

He could find the going a bit more difficult against Miami,

which has allowed an average of 176.0 passing yards while causing

seven turnovers over its last four contests.

Making matters worse, San Diego left tackle King Dunlap went

down with a strained neck against Denver and doesn’t know if he’ll

be able to play. The Chargers also have lost outside linebacker

Larry English for the season due to a pectoral injury.

San Diego has lost on its last six trips to Miami, including a

pair of playoff meetings. The Chargers’ last victory in south

Florida was the well-known 41-38 overtime thriller in the AFC

Divisional playoff game on Jan. 2, 1982.