Five things to watch for in Dolphins-Chargers game – The Denver Post


The Miami Dolphins (8-4) visit the Los Angeles Chargers (6-6) at 8:20 p.m. Sunday at SoFi Stadium; here are five things to watch for:

Tua vs. Herbert

Don’t look at this as a head-to-head competition between Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert. It’s not. View this in the prism of which quarterback does the most to help his team win as both teams chase playoff berths. That’s a job that requires quarterbacks doing little things as well as big things. So check which quarterback gets his team out of the huddle and to the line of scrimmage easiest, which quarterback makes smart decisions such as throwing the ball away or taking the sack, and which quarterback keeps his receivers out of danger by placing the pass in the correct location. Yes, those 50-yard passing touchdowns are important, but so are the little things that keep the offense running smoothly and keep teammates calm and confident.

Dolphins’ run game

You’ve heard this before, but the Dolphins struggle to run the ball. They’re 28th in rushing at 89.7 yards per game. The Dolphins, who have rushed for 99 yards the last two games, only attempted eight runs last week against San Francisco. That makes the offense one dimensional. Beyond that, the Dolphins only had possession for 19 minutes, 26 seconds. The 49ers had the ball for 40:34. And the Dolphins were 0 of 7 on third downs. A good run game could help those third-down conversions. The offensive line must open up some holes, and running backs Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. have to hit those holes quickly.

Road defense improvement

The Dolphins, who are eighth in points allowed at 24.1 points per game, have allowed at least 27 points in each road game. This trend can’t continue. They’re putting too much pressure on the offense. The defense must keep the Chargers to a reasonable point total. Most likely that starts with the pass rush trio of Bradley Chubb, Melvin Ingram and Jaelan Phillips putting pressure on Herbert making him uncomfortable. But the defense could get its jumpstart from the secondary, led by cornerback Xavien Howard and safety Jevon Holland.

Solid pass protection

Pass protection is about skill, but it’s also about teamwork, the entire group — offensive line, tight ends, running backs, quarterback, coaches, everyone — working together. They’ve got to figure out what this pass protection package does best without left tackle Terron Armstead (pectoral), who is questionable against the Chargers. Tagovailoa must have time to throw and the results have been rough without Armstead. If he doesn’t play, it’s probably not going to go well. The Dolphins must work harder this week to change that outlook. It could decide the game.

Trap game

The Dolphins have been good at keeping their focus all season. They’ll need more of that on Sunday night as they continue their three-game road trip. It’d be easy to overlook the Chargers. After all, this game is sandwiched between showdowns against San Francisco and Buffalo. And it’s practically a must-win game. Lose this one and you head to Buffalo on a short week with a three-game December losing streak as a very real possibility. The Chargers, a .500 team at a respectable 6-6, aren’t going to strike fear into many opponents. But hopefully they’ll get the Dolphins’ full attention.



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