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News » Chargers brace for surprising Dolphins


Chargers brace for surprising Dolphins


Chargers brace for surprising Dolphins
MIAMI (AP) - The Miami Dolphins' practice field is in the landing pattern for Fort Lauderdale's nearby airport, so attentive passengers may have the scoop on the latest wrinkle in the NFL's most successful single-wing offense.


What were those surprising Dolphins working on this week? A quick kick? A double lateral? The center eligible?

The revival of the Pop Warner playbook rejuvenated Miami's long-dormant offense, and the San Diego Chargers are trying to guess what's in store for them Sunday.

The Chargers (2-2) lead the NFL in scoring average, but the Dolphins (1-2) rank first this year in offensive innovation. They pulled the single wing out of mothballs against the New England Patriots, and the century-old formation produced four touchdowns in six plays for a 38-13 victory.

That shocker preceded a bye, giving Miami two weeks to dust off a few more pages of its playbook for the Chargers.

"We have several other pieces to this puzzle if we want," Miami coach Tony Sparano said. "We may not use them. We may use them. It just depends on what we see."

Players were just as coy about what Sparano and his assistants plan.

"It's like a chemistry lab upstairs: You get the smoke drifting down, and they are up there cooking it up," said Chad Pennington, who moves from quarterback to receiver in the single wing. "We will just have to wait and see. It's out there now, defenses are going to come up with ways to stop it, and we have to be able to react accordingly."

The Chargers are trying to anticipate anything. Linebacker Matt Wilhelm said he expects to see the single wing four to eight times, and as possible plays he listed a double reverse, a pass by Ricky Williams and a pass to Pennington.

"We're thinking outside the box," Wilhelm said. "We're preparing for what we've seen, and we're preparing for I guess what they're capable of in that set, as well."

The Dolphins know it will be tough to keep up with the Chargers, who are averaging 34.5 points per game. The defending AFC West champions lost one game on the final play and another on a bad officiating call, then regrouped to win the past two weeks.

"We could easily sit here and be 4-0," receiver Chris Chambers said. "We're not."

They are explosive, however. Philip Rivers has thrown 10 touchdown passes, including four to Chambers, and LaDainian Tomlinson has scored twice each of the past two weeks.

"The offense feels like they can score at will, and when it's on, it's really on," said Chambers, who will play in Miami for the first time since the Dolphins traded him a year ago. "We can put up a lot of points."

Both teams seek a breakthrough. It has been 27 seasons since the Chargers won in Miami, while the Dolphins hope to achieve back-to-back wins for the first time since November 2006.

The Dolphins are coming off their most lopsided win in six years. They totaled 461 yards against New England, including 119 - an average of 19.8 per play - with the single wing.

Miami calls the formation the Wildcat. With Pennington split wide, Williams in motion from the slot and the line unbalanced, running back Ronnie Brown takes direct snaps.

Against the Patriots, Brown ran for a franchise-record four touchdowns and threw for another, with all but one score coming from the Wildcat. He also handed off to Williams for a 28-yard gain.

The Dolphins installed the formation during training camp to take advantage of their deepest position, running back.

"Ronnie didn't just run for touchdowns," offensive coordinator Dan Henning said. "Ronnie handled the ball. He threw the ball. You don't just drop off the back of a pickup truck and do that. You've got to be talented."

The single wing hasn't been used as a base offense in the NFL since the early 1950s, but it has been showing up occasionally on Sundays this season. If underdog Miami uses it to pull off another upset this week, it's sure to become a bigger fad.

The Dolphins borrowed the formation from the Arkansas Razorbacks' playbook, and other college teams use it as a change of pace.

"Football is going to it," Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder said. "I saw three or four colleges that were doing it last Saturday. It will be a trend for a while. It'll be fun to see what they can come up with. You really don't know who is going to get the ball. There's so much you can do with it."

For the Dolphins, only a pass to the guard can be ruled out. Guard Justin Smiley said that's not part of Miami's package.

"The only way I'm ever touching the ball," Smiley said, "is if we happen to fumble."



Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: October 3, 2008

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