4:15 PM ET, October 2, 2011
Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, CA
The winless Miami Dolphins might have to get better very quickly to save coach Tony Sparano's job.
The Chargers look to improve to 3-0 at Qualcomm Stadium for the first time since 2006 when they face the hapless Dolphins, who will try to avoid a seventh straight loss Sunday.
San Diego is tied with Oakland atop the West with its second 2-1 start in coach Norv Turner's five seasons. That's despite an uneven start by Rivers, who is on pace to easily surpass his career high of 15 interceptions with a league-worst six -- two coming in each contest.
He also threw for a season-low 266 yards last week, but the Chargers defeated visiting Kansas City 20-17.
"Certainly I need to play better, and I'm going to work like crazy to do that," said Rivers, who has thrown for four touchdowns. "But 2-1 is what's important."
While Rivers' six INTs are disconcerting, the Chargers' two wins haven't exactly come in spite of him. He is the league's top-rated fourth-quarter passer at 136.4, going 25 of 30 with three TDs and no INTs in that period.
Rivers apparently will have to make do without Antonio Gates for a second straight game, as the Pro Bowl tight end continues to struggle with pain from the torn plantar fascia he suffered last season.
"I've done whatever it is you can imagine to help this problem," Gates said. "At this point rest is the only thing that's left to try and get this thing healed."
Even if Gates doesn't play, Rivers and the Chargers could have an easy time moving the ball through the air. The Dolphins are giving up 311.0 passing yards per game, 30th in the NFL, and won't have starting cornerback Vontae Davis (hamstring).
Miami (0-3) is also 30th in total defense at 415.7 yards allowed per contest, and it hasn't been much better on offense, scoring five TDs. The Dolphins fell 17-16 to Cleveland on Sunday, giving up a 14-yard touchdown catch to Mohamed Massaquoi with 43 seconds to play.
"It starts with believing you can win," Miami's Chad Henne said after going 19 of 29 for 255 yards. "We have to put the right mental attitude out there, knowing we are going to win. If you have the right attitude, you're more confident in yourself. We're going to find out what kind of team this is."
The three-game skid to end last season, along with another three losses to start this year, may have put Sparano's job in jeopardy.
"We're putting him in a tough situation," linebacker Karlos Dansby said. "We've got to play better. Right now his job is on the line, and we've got to do a better job of defending it for him. We're the only ones who can."
For that to happen, Henne will have get better. He has completed 56.5 percent of his passes and is ranked 31st in fourth-quarter passer rating at 48.7.
Henne completed 15 of his first 17 throws Sunday, but went 4 for 12 the rest of the way and was picked off with 13 seconds left. Miami is 0-3 for the first time since Sept. 27, 2009, when it lost 23-13 in its last visit to San Diego.
Henne's job won't be any easier without rookie running back Daniel Thomas, who will sit out his second game with a nagging hamstring injury. Thomas missed the season opener against New England before averaging 4.9 yards a carry and totaling 202 yards the past two weeks.
Miami's defense, meanwhile, will have to find a way to slow down the Chargers' Ryan Mathews, who has 45 carries for 207 yards and three TDs along with 14 receptions for 186 yards.
"He's becoming the complete back we expect him to be," Turner said of the second-year player.
Sparano wishes he could say that about Bush, who has totaled 69 yards rushing and 71 receiving.
"San Diego's a good team and they've got a really good offense and defense, so we've really got to correct some things quick because we don't want to find ourselves 0-4," Bush said. "I've been 0-4 before my second year in the league (with New Orleans) and it wasn't fun."
Miami had won seven straight against the Chargers prior to the 2009 matchup in San Diego.
More from ESPN.com
Chargers, Woodhead agree to 2-year deal
The San Diego Chargers agreed to a two-year contract extension with running back Danny Woodhead.
Chargers release former 1st-round pick English
The San Diego Chargers released outside linebacker Larry English, a former first-round draft pick, on Tuesday.
Ex-RB needs proof he completed sentence
A Las Vegas judge gave a lawyer until July 30 to produce proof that former NFL running back Larry Johnson met terms of his sentence following his conviction in a domestic violence case involving an ex-girlfriend at a Las Vegas Strip resort.
Dolphins-Chargers: 10 observations
After breaking down film of both teams, Scouts Inc. offers 10 things to watch in this week's Dolphins-Chargers matchup.
1. Miami needs to establish an effective ground attack: The Chargers are inconsistent defending the run (yielding 111 yards per contest, 4.3 yards per attempt), and the Dolphins' strong suit is rushing the football. Dolphins offensive coordinator Brian Daboll must be creative getting the ball to Reggie Bush on the perimeter and Daniel Thomas on power plays between the tackles.
Recent Blog Posts
|Avg Points Allowed||26.0||21.3|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||MIA|
|Rush Yds Allowed||MIA|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Miami leads 4-2|
|Sep 27, 2009||MIA 13, @SD 23|
|Oct 5, 2008||MIA 17, SD 10|
|Dec 11, 2005||MIA 23, @SD 21|
|Oct 27, 2003||MIA 26, @SD 10|
|Nov 24, 2002||MIA 30, SD 3|