Insiders Report Card

The San Diego Chargers dropped to 1-6 and the freefall that started the season appears ready to rear its ugly head again. The Bolts were thoroughly whooped by the Dolphins defense and with Miami stymieing the run, Drew Brees could not limit his mistakes.

PASSING OFFENSE: F -- Look, it's easy to pick on QB Drew Brees here after three INTs, and he deserves it. But the pass blocking was also lacking, which accounted for him being sacked six times. And on one of his picks, the ball ricocheted off LaDainian Tomlinson's shoulder pad. But if Brees (19 of 30, 190 yards) keeps padding that interception number, the Chargers have little chance of rebounding from this slide. Among the highlights here was Tomlinson catching a team-high 11 passes, for 80 yards.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- The yards were tough to come by here, which is no surprise when facing the NFL's top run defense. Tomlinson gathered 62 yards, but it took him 24 carries to do it -- a ho-hum 2.6-yard average. Again, he didn't have much to work with as the Dolphins' line and active linebackers -- especially Zach Thomas -- seem to be waiting for Tomlinson whenever he hit a hole, or made one of his cut backs.

PASS DEFENSE: D -- Miami QB Brian Griese is no slouch, but he was hardly pressed in throwing for three touchdowns, and hitting 20 of his 29 passes for 192 yards. The corners and safeties were giving up too much of a cushion in zone coverage, and the man coverage wasn't physical enough to knock the Dolphins' receivers off their routes. The pass rush was tepid, at best.

RUSH DEFENSE: C -- Not bad, as Ricky Williams never really did gash the defense for big runs, save one for 18 yards. Williams was restricted to three yards a carry, which the Chargers' picked upon run defense will take any day, or Monday night. LB Donnie Edwards continues his stellar play, as he had a game-high 11 tackles and forced a fumble that set up the Chargers lone touchdown of the night. This defensive area wasn't the one that lost the game -- the pass defense did that.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- Steve Christie continues to surprise with his leg strength, as he nailed a field goal from 51 yards. And there was a nifty alignment shift on a fourth down that enticed the Dolphins offside for a first down. Tim Dwight had a 27-yard kick return for the only highlight on return teams; the kickoff coverage unit allowed a 34-yard return.

COACHING: F -- This team is regressing, which is saying something after starting with five losses. Whatever hopes there were on building on last week's fortunate win in Cleveland -- the Chargers played terribly, but still won -- were quickly dashed with Brees tossing two interceptions in the game's opening five minutes. Schottenheimer proved to be what he calls himself -- a stubborn German -- when he stuck with Brees despite the offense showing little production. We know Doug Flutie isn't the long-term answer, but Brees was struggling and the team was crying for a spark. And Flutie might have been able to scramble his way from harm's way, which was ever-present with the Dolphins collecting six sacks. But Schottenheimer stayed the course, and the result was this season keeping its path to another dismal showing.

Grading the Dolphins:

PASSING OFFENSE: A -- The Dolphins couldn't have asked any more from Brian Griese, who hadn't received game action since suffering ligament damage in his left toe during the third exhibition contest. James McKnight became more involved in the offense than at any point during the season, catching a season-high six passes for 43 yards and one touchdown. Griese became the first Dolphins quarterback to complete touchdown passes to two different wide receivers in the same game since Fiedler did it in December 2001 during a 41-6 rout of Indianapolis.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B-minus -- In the past four games, Ricky Williams has tabulated one less rushing yard than the 278 posted during the second and third games of the season. Williams, who rushed for 69 yards on 23 carries against San Diego, looks like a running back waiting to get hit, which is understandable playing behind a so-so offensive line.

PASS DEFENSE: A-plus -- The argument can be made that Patrick Surtain is the NFL's best cornerback. Surtain had his second two-interception game of the season, with his first putting the Dolphins at the Chargers 6-yard line for Griese's first possession. DE Adewale Ogunleye had two of the team's six sacks.

RUSH DEFENSE: A -- After rushing for 200 yards the previous week against Cleveland, San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson was held to 62 yards on 24 carries with a long of just eight yards. The Chargers also were forced to abandon the running game after falling behind, 24-3, late in the first half.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C-minus -- The Dolphins began a special teams shakeup by benching returner Charlie Rogers in favor of WR Sam Simmons (punts) and RB Travis Minor (kickoffs). PK Olindo Mare missed a 36-yard field goal and Jeff Grau had a bad punt snap that was made to look even worse when Matt Turk unsuccessfully tried running for a first down rather than punt.

COACHING: B-minus - Coach Dave Wannstedt deserves credit for keeping his team focused after the game was abruptly moved to Tempe because of the wildfires in San Diego. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner also came up with a game plan that helped Griese succeed. That being said, the Dolphins did little in the second half and would have been in trouble had San Diego been able to score more than seven points on four trips inside Miami's red zone.

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