By Abraham Gutierrez
In what could have been the final NFL game played at Qualcomm Stadium, the San Diego Chargers rose to the challenge, coming away with a decisive 30-14 victory, while the lowly Miami Dolphins continued to fall further down the rabbit hole. The loss drops Miami to 5-9 on the year, and at this point, Fins fans are simply counting the days for this season to expire.
For the Bolts and their fans, this week’s game against the Dolphins certainly meant a heck of a lot more. Heading into an offseason filled with speculation, thousands of Chargers fans converged at 9449 Friars Road for one last time, and their team did not disappoint, delivering an inspiring performance.
“It was special, the whole day was special,” said longtime Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers after the game. “I know it’s still one of those ‘we still don’t know’ – I mean, maybe we’ll get to trout back out there and play again, but, it was the only way to treat it, as if it was the last time. I was back-and-fourth, really, the whole day as far as my emotions getting the best of me.”
Coming as no surprise, the Miami Dolphins offense couldn’t get anything going yet again. The Fins anemic attack closed out Week 15 by accumulating 13 first downs, 231 yards of total offense and controlled the clock for 21 minutes and seven seconds.
Their woes on third down continued, converting on 2-of-14 opportunities by rushing for a dismal 44 yards and throwing for 187 yards. For a change, Ryan Tannehill was forced to run for his life, as it almost seemed as though his offensive line was allowing the Bolts to reach the backfield on purpose.
In any case, the end result wasn’t pretty, as the former Texas A&M product completed 59 percent of his passes, going 20-for-34 for 216 yards, three sacks, no touchdowns or interceptions, to earn a quarterback rating of 77.6. Miami’s top wide receivers on the afternoon were DeVante Parker (4 receptions for 87 yards) and Jarvis Landry (8 receptions for 54 yards), while Jay Ajayi (6 rushes for 27 yards) was the Fins’ leading rusher.
On the defensive end of the football, Miami’s defense was unable to do anything against the Chargers either on the ground or through the air. The Fins allowed 26 first downs and 442 yards of total offense, out of which, 140 came on the ground and 302 through the air.
With not much resistance to speak of, the Chargers completed an eye-popping 9-for-14 on third downs and chewed up 38 minutes and 53 seconds of gametime. As expected, Rivers was surgical in what could be his final game in San Diego, going 26-for-36 (72 percent) for 311 yards, 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions for a quarterback rating of 102.9.
Miami’s defensive standouts on the afternoon included Michael Thomas (14 tackles, PD), Kelvin Sheppard (12 tackles, PD), Olivier Vernon (11 tackles, 0.5 sacks), Reshad Jones (7 tackles, PD, INT) and Brent Grimes (3 tackles, 2 PD, INT).
Special Teams: A
With a game like this one, the special teams player that made the most impact was punter Matt Darr. The Tennessee product closed out the game by averaging 46 yards on eight punts, including a long of 53 yards and one boot that was placed inside the Chargers’ 20.
From a coaching standpoint, as much as Dan Campbell has poured his heart and soul into making this team a contender, the 2015 Miami Dolphins will go down in history as one of the biggest busts in NFL history. At this point, given the uninspired fashion this bunch has chosen to go out, it’s difficult to place all the blame on Campbell and his staff.
Nevertheless, strange play-calling and goofy decision-making will describe a Dolphins team that certainly proved to be more sizzle than steak coming out of training camp. But life in the NFL isn’t always fair, and unfortunately for Coach Campbell, the blame squarely falls on his shoulders.
Abe Gutierrez’s (Twitter: @GutierrezAbe) passion led him to ditch law school journey in order to launch his own publishing company. His expertise make him a valued addition to Examiner.com, AXS.com and the CBS-Sports family. Some of his work can be found on CBS-Miami (Dolphins), CBS-LosAngeles (Chargers), CBS-BayArea (Raiders), CBS-NewYork (NY Jets), CBS-TampaBay (Buccaneers), AXS.com, Examiner.com and other online publications.