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Dolphins Have Power and Glory

Williams rushes for 143 yards and two touchdowns as Miami rolls to a 30-3 victory over reeling Chargers.

November 25, 2002|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

MIAMI — Just before the Miami Dolphins took the field for the second half Sunday, running back Ricky Williams pulled aside quarterback Ray Lucas and gave him a little reminder.

"Remember," Williams said, "I'm a beast in the second half."

That scouting tidbit was not lost on the San Diego Chargers, who found him rather beastly in the first half as well. By game's end, Williams would have his sixth 100-yard rushing game of the season -- a franchise record -- and the Dolphins (7-4) would send the Chargers home in disgrace, 30-3.

Williams gained 143 yards in 29 carries, scoring on runs of one and 12 yards. And, like a lot of defenses this season, San Diego players were chasing his braids all afternoon.

"He's just a big man moving at a high rate of speed," Dolphin guard Mark Dixon said. "Unless you've played against it, you can't do it justice. You can talk about, 'We have to get more people to him. We have to wrap up.' But when he hits it, it's a different sound than anything else in the world. It's a totally different sound -- an explosion.

"It's just so much power, right-now power. He gets his power right on top of you before you can brace for it. I don't know how else to explain it, but people are never ready for the hit. They're always almost in position, and that's because he gets to them a step quicker than they think."

Meanwhile, a promising season is rapidly disintegrating for San Diego (7-4), which has lost three of four and faces tough home games against Denver and Oakland. The 2001 Chargers started 5-2, remember, before losing nine in a row.

"The key for us is to not start blaming each other and saying, 'Here we go again,' " safety Rodney Harrison said. "I think that whole thing is out of our system. I don't think we have guys around here that are saying, 'Uh oh.' There has been so much turnover on this team, and, honestly, we're better than we were last year."

That doesn't always show. San Diego's defense, traditionally solid even in the worst of seasons, has been remarkably shaky in recent weeks. Miami gained 413 yards to San Diego's 144.

"We lost the battle offensively up front, and we lost the battle defensively up front," said Charger Coach Marty Schottenheimer, who is 1-9 in games at Miami. "We didn't make any plays to stay on the field, and we didn't make any plays to get them off the field. Clearly, it was a very disappointing performance by our football team."

It didn't help that the Chargers lost Pro Bowl cornerback Ryan McNeil to an arm injury in the first quarter. That not only put extra weight on the shoulders of rookie cornerback Quentin Jammer, it limited the effectiveness of Harrison, maybe the league's best safety when it comes to shutting down the run. With McNeil on the sideline, Harrison had to think more about the pass and couldn't zero in on Williams the way he normally might.

"When Ryan leaves, you lose a leader, you lose a guy that makes plays and a guy that really helps manage the secondary with me," Harrison said. "As much potential as Quentin Jammer has, he's still a rookie."

Lucas, looking far more comfortable and competent than he did in recent games against Buffalo and Green Bay, completed 14 of 23 passes and repeatedly threw in Jammer's direction.

San Diego's Drew Brees was sacked three times, and the Dolphins intercepted his opening pass, setting up the first of Olindo Mare's three field goals.

The Chargers were stung by two calls in the third quarter, one questionable and the other supported by replay. The controversial call came on a Miami punt when Dolphin Scott McGarrahan hit returner Reche Caldwell and knocked the ball loose, even though Caldwell had signaled for a fair catch. The Dolphins recovered the muffed punt, and officials ruled McGarrahan was shoved into Caldwell by Jammer. Schottenheimer watched with an incredulous glare as the Dolphins took over at the Charger 28 and scored four plays later.

On the last play of the third quarter, James McKnight caught a short pass in Dolphin territory as was falling, then climbed to his feet before a Charger could get to him. He dashed down the sideline, turning the play into a 77-yard gain before he was chased down at the five by Jammer.

The Chargers challenged the call, arguing McKnight was down, but officials took a look at the tape and determined the receiver's hand was down when he was first touched, but not his knee.

Asked about getting caught from behind, McKnight said: "The guys are going to give me a hard time. They say I'm the fastest guy on the team, but I'm always getting caught."

Maybe he could get some pointers from the beast, the guy who puts the dread in dreadlocks.

"You can't prepare for Ricky, especially the smaller guys on the other side," Dolphin tackle Todd Wade said. "An arm tackle is not going to do it. I think most of the DBs in the NFL fear Ricky more than anything. They don't want to make that big tackle against that guy."

Wade lowered his voice and made a confession: Sometimes, he's a spectator just like everyone else.

"As an offensive lineman, you want to be making those blocks downfield," he said. "But once you look back and he's 10 yards past you, you just start walking. I should be running ... but you just want to watch him."

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