Tales from the SunnySide: Chargers vs Miami

It was raining on the waterfront here this morning. A chill autumn wind blew in the city of the Sandy Ego – it blew all the way from the coast of Miami. By halftime, it was blowing the visiting Bolts clean off the field.

The Chargers squad was tussling with the Fighting Fish on a rainy Florida afternoon, and the Fish won easily. It looked at times as if Parcells was pulling a New England on Norv Turner’s team – he must have been reading the San Diego playbook to be anticipating their tendencies on both offense and defense so well.

On defense, the way for a shorter player to guard a 6’6 WR was shown in clinic form as Goodman blanketed Chambers; perfect timing and great leaping ability made up for a vertical challenge. On the other side, the Miami O line moved the Chargers off the point of attack at will, and the SD LB and secondary were made responsible for ball carriers over and again.

San Diego received the opening kickoff and went on a long drive to start the game, eating over 7 minutes of clock time but ultimately ending only in a field goal. That was the extent of their joy during the half as Miami easily piled up 17 points, ending with an 80 yard drive that played to Pennington’s strengths perfectly. Rivers was held to 45 years passing for the 1st half, and the Chargers O accumulated only an anemic 91 years of total offense, most coming on the 1st drive.

Short, ball control passes, powerful running by Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams and multiple uses of the new Wildcat formation, both near mid field and in the red zone, highlighted the MIA drive that closed out the first half. The talent and play of Ronnie Brown was the driving force of the Miami attack. He coaxed the ball from the center in the Wildcat as the play clock ran down inside the 5 yard line, coolly looking for his best option and running the ball into the end zone. The clock mercifully ran out then, as a drizzling rain cooled the spirits of the few Chargers hopeful who ventured out.

The Chargers came out of the half with a new energy, embarrassed by their performance and seeking revenge. Stephen Cooper returned from injury and hammered Brown on the Dolphins first play of the half, with the drive ending at 4th and 8 and a Miami punt. But the Miami D was just as enlivened.

David Roth twice slashed past the left tackle, once to deck Rivers in the act of throwing and the second time to yank down LDT from behind. With yet another Charger punt, Miami went back to work in steady fashion. Pass over the center, end around, off tackle. The drive finally sputtered with a missed field goal, and San Diego took it back. A quick score ensued on two picture perfect passes by Rivers – a circus catch by Vincent Jackson and a toe tapper by Chambers in the corner of the end zone, good for the TD – illustrated the big play capacity that SD is known for.

Miami fumbled the ensuing kickoff and SD, although erratically, drove it to the 1, despite a long sack and poor running by a still injured LDT who came out of the last drive limping again. But on 4th and goal at the 1, LDT can’t push it over the line and Miami takes over on downs, nursing its 7 point lead. Miami drove for a while but came up short on a missed FG. But it was when SD took the ball back over that the renewed power of the Miami D really showed.

# 98 David Roth is a retooled, undersized DE who was moved into the LB slot of make use of his speed as well as his power. He hammered his way past LDT, who is still moving gingerly, and into Rivers, sacking him for a 9 yard loss. Jackson is open again on 3 and 19 but Rivers throw is wild. Dueling punts change nothing, although R. Brown passes the 100 yard mark wit 4:34 left in the 4th. From there on, the Chargers D is powerless to stop the methodical dissection of the Miami offense. The Wildcat formation comes out again, and again it is effective for 5. Short runs and short passes destroy the rest of the clock as MIA comes out victorious.

Things to take away from the game – LDT is still injured. He’s not himself, and he might not be this year. It’s something to consider. The toe is keeping him from cutting; he’s also lost some of his power. The SD receivers are good, but they aren’t where they need to be, as we suspected in the preseason. Antonio Gates disappeared today, receiving only 1 for 12 yards. Rivers is a heck of a talent. But, if you get in his face enough he can be rattled. His work in the 4th quarter was substandard and may have lost SD the ball game, despite two great passes on one drive.

With SD’s offense, 17 points shouldn’t be an insurmountable lead. Miami is for real: Parcells has done a great job with this team. They are focused, they are confident, and they are putting people back on their heels. They play an effective offense (Jake Long looks like the #1 he is) with a great swarming D and their secondary is doing a solid job. David Roth shows how important it is that the coaches look at their players and tool the game to them.

Last, the Wildcat formation requires the right players. Denver will see it from the Raiders, with DMF running it. However, contrary to the conventional wisdom before the season, it can work and work well in the pro game. The Broncos may have their work cut out for them with Miami.

Originally posted at MHR

Learn to laugh at yourself. You will be ceaselessly amused. - Sri Gary Olsen

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