MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- It's one thing for the Miami Dolphins to rattle Jacksonville Jaguars rookie quarterback Blake Bortles. But it is another thing to do the same against MVP candidate Philip Rivers of the San Diego Chargers.
The Dolphins' defense claimed another quarterback victim in Sunday's 37-0 blowout victory over San Diego. Miami pummeled and baffled Rivers on his way to one of the worst performances of his career. He was 12-of-23 passing for 138 yards, three interceptions and one lost fumble.
Miami now has victories this season over quarterbacks Tom Brady, Derek Carr, Jay Cutler, Bortles and Rivers. But Sunday was the most complete defensive performance of the season. The squad allowed just 178 yards. Rivers was pulled from the game late in the third quarter.
"It probably couldn't have come at a better time," Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake said. "This was a game we felt that we matched up well."
How did the Dolphins shut down the Chargers? Miami pressured Rivers with three sacks, and the secondary (three interceptions) was aggressive in sticking to San Diego's receivers. The Dolphins also kept defenders back to avoid the big play. Rivers was 0-for-6 with two interceptions on throws of 15 yards or more, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
The Dolphins' defense also received help from their offense, which scored 14 points on the first two drives and quickly made the Chargers one-dimensional. San Diego's offense became predictable in the second quarter, when Miami led 20-0.
The Dolphins' secondary also had one of its best games in coverage. Miami cornerback Brent Grimes had the assignment of shutting down San Diego's No. 1 receiver, Keenan Allen. Twice Grimes picked off Rivers on attempts to Allen. Dolphins safety Reshad Jones had another interception.
Miami's pressure forced several poor decisions by Rivers.
"First of all, I want to thank our D-line, who played incredible," Grimes said. "Linebackers, too, for getting to the quarterback and just pressuring him, not letting him step up and make easy throws."
The Dolphins, at 5-3, have their best record in the first half of the season since 2003. One reason Miami is two games above .500 is its defense is holding opposing quarterbacks to a 76.9 passer rating.
"I was terrible," Rivers said. "And when the quarterback's terrible, it's hard to win."
The Dolphins' defense entered Week 9 fifth in yards allowed and seventh in yards per game. This is a group earning its stripes as one of the NFL's best this season.
With the defense leading the way, Miami is aiming to break a six-year playoff drought. The Dolphins now own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Chargers (5-4).
"We treated this game like a playoff game," Dolphins defensive tackle Jared Odrick said. "This is a game where, if we win this, the odds of seeing the playoffs are higher, and we knew that. This is one we got to have."