- Associated Press - Saturday, November 1, 2014

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) - It’s understandable Philip Rivers can’t remember the San Diego Chargers’ last win in Miami, since he was three weeks old at the time.

But Chargers fans have a fond attachment for the Jan. 2, 1982, playoff game, as Kim Bokamper can attest. He played in that game for the Dolphins.

“What I remember about it,” Bokamper said, “is that every time I talk to someone from San Diego, that’s the only game they ever talk about.”

One reason would be that the Chargers’ 41-38 victory is often ranked among the greatest playoff games in NFL history.

But the Chargers would also rather forget about subsequent trips to Miami, including a drubbing by San Francisco in the 1995 Super Bowl and seven consecutive losses to the Dolphins, the most recent a 20-16 defeat last November.

“They beat us,” Rivers said, “but we didn’t play our best.”

The Chargers’ 32-plus years without a road win against Miami is the fourth-longest such current drought involving two AFC teams, according to STATS.

Here are some things to know as San Diego tries again Sunday:

THE PLAYOFF RACE: The Chargers (5-3) are mired in their first two-game losing streak of the season, while the Dolphins (4-3) have won two in a row for the first time.

San Diego needs a win to keep pressure on AFC West leader Denver. A victory would make the Chargers’ bye next week much more pleasant, Rivers said.

“Shoot, 6-3 after nine sounds pretty good, especially given the fact that the next week is a bye,” Rivers said. “It’s not like you would be at 5-4 and you could quickly turn around. It would linger.”

For Miami, the game marks the start of a rugged four-game stretch against opponents who are a combined 22-9.

LOUSY GETAWAYS: Poor starts have plagued the Dolphins, who went three-and-out on their first three series last week at woeful Jacksonville. They’ve outscored opponents only 64-63 in the first half, while their third-quarter point differential of 77-38 is the NFL’s best.

Coach Joe Philbin said he’s not inclined to change the pregame routine in hopes of improving the way his team plays early in games.

“It is a joint thing,” Philbin said. “We have to do a better job; I have to do a better job. We have to do a better job putting the players in a position to be successful.

“They have to do a better job executing. I don’t think it’s one thing. If I thought it was a lousy pep talk, I would give a better pep talk. If I thought it was a bad pregame warmup, I would do something different.”

The Chargers have been stout at the start, allowing just 14 points in the opening quarter, second-fewest in the league.

GROUNDED: The Chargers are averaging 3.1 yards per rush, which ranks second-worst in the NFL, and lately they haven’t given their ground game much of a chance.

In losses the past two weeks to Kansas City and Denver, San Diego tried a total of 76 pass plays and only 31 runs.

The Dolphins rank third in the league at 5.0 yards per rush, in part because Ryan Tannehill is averaging 7.3 yards per carry. He has had a run of at least 30 yards in each of past three games, longest such NFL streak by a quarterback since Michael Vick in 2004.

GOING LONG: Tannehill makes his 40th career start Sunday for Miami, and he still struggles with his accuracy on long passes.

Last week he connected deep with speedy Mike Wallace for the first time this season, and the 50-yard completion was Miami’s longest of the year. Philbin was so pleased he played a videotape of the pass for the entire team.

“We were just showing the trust there has to be, number one, with the protection so the quarterback can go through his progression, and number two, with the quarterback having faith that the wide receiver is going to be at the appropriate spot at the right time,” Philbin said. “When you freeze the camera where Ryan was letting the ball go, Mike was totally covered. But they were on the same page.”

TURNOVER TENDENCIES: Three Miami defensive backs have scored this season, and the Dolphins are on an NFL record pace with their average of 43.2 yards on interception returns.

Rivers has a career-low interception rate of 1.8 per 100 passes. He’s been picked off only five times this year, but three of those came in the past two weeks.


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL


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