San Diego (7-3) at Miami (6-4)

Thunder in the Vicinity Currently: Miami Gardens, FL
Temp: 90° F
  • Game info: 1:00 pm EST Sun Nov 24, 2002
  • TV: CBS
Preview | Box Score | Recap

MIAMI (TICKER) —Norv Turner pushed for the San Diego Chargers to switch from Doug Flutie to Drew Brees last season. Marty Schottenheimer is glad he made the move this year.

On Sunday, Brees and the Chargers visit the Miami Dolphins in a pivotal AFC matchup.

The Dolphins are in first place in the AFC East, one game ahead of New England, Buffalo and the New York Jets. San Diego is tied with Denver for first place in the AFC West, one game ahead of Oakland.

Brees threw for a career-high 336 yards and two touchdowns in San Diego’s 20-17 overtime win over San Francisco last week. His second touchdown was a game-tying one-yard toss to fullback Fred McCrary with 31 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

After Jose Cortez missed a potential game-winning 41-yard field in overtime for San Francisco, Brees drove the Chargers down the field, completing a 19-yard pass to Tim Dwight on a 3rd-and-8 play and connecting with rookie Eric Parker on an 18-yard pass to the San Francisco 28. That set up Steve Christie’s winning 40-yard field goal.

A first-round pick in 2001, Brees has quieted any possible quarterback controversy with his performance this season, throwing for 1,999 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Last year, Turner urged former Chargers coach Mike Riley to switch from Flutie to Brees when the team was mired in a nine-game losing streak, but Riley never made the move.

Schottenheimer made the decision to go with Brees as his starter late in the preseason and has been rewarded for having faith in him.

Before Schottenheimer was hired, Turner left the Chargers to join his friend Dave Wannstedt in Miami as offensive coordinator. Quarterback Jay Fiedler flourished under Turner, leading the Dolphins to a 5-1 record and throwing for 1,289 yards and nine touchdowns with six interceptions.

However, since Fiedler broke his thumb in an October 13 game at Denver, Turner did not have quite the same success with backup Ray Lucas, who lost his first three games as a starter and committed nine turnovers.

Last week, Lucas played a mistake-free game, completing 18-of-26 passes for 221 yards and rushing for a touchdown in Miami’s 26-7 win over Baltimore.

The Dolphins recorded seven sacks, including 2 1/2 by end Adewale Ogunleye. However, the Chargers did not give up a sack to San Francisco despite attempting 50 passes and have allowed just 11 this season.

“They were outstanding,” Schottenheimer said of his underrated offensive line. “Our offensive line is very, very capable.”

The game also features LaDainian Tomlinson of San Diego, the NFL’s leading rusher with 1,053 yards. He rushed for 88 yards on 24 carries and caught eight passes for 57 yards in the win over San Francisco.

The Dolphins rank second in the NFL against the run at 92.1 yards per game. Middle linebacker Zach Thomas has a team-high 119 tackles.

Miami’s Ricky Williams recorded his fifth 100-yard rushing game of the season last week, gaining 102 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries, to tie Delvin Williams’ franchise record for the most 100-yard games in a season. Williams is third among AFC rushers behind Tomlinson and Priest Holmes of Kansas City with 913 yards.

San Diego ranks third in the NFL against the run, yielding 92.8 yards per game. Linebacker Donnie Edwards leads the team with 69 tackles and is tied for second in the AFC in interceptions with four.

Miami leads the AFC with 28 sacks, including 8 1/2 by end Jason Taylor. San Diego is tied for second in the conference with 26 sacks.

San Diego leads the series, 10-8, but the Dolphins won the last meeting, 17-7 in November 2000.

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