Miami Sports Day

NFL: Dolphins Host 49ers at Hard Rock Stadium

The Sports Xchange previews the NFL game between the San Francisco 49ers (1-9) and Miami Dolphins (6-4) at Hard Rock Stadium.

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, Hard Rock Stadium, Miami. TV: FOX, Thom Brennaman, Charles Davis, Chris Spielman, Holly Sonders.

SERIES HISTORY: 12th regular-season meeting. Dolphins lead series, 6-5. The 49ers will be looking for their first win at Miami in 21 years (Nov. 20, 1995), one that if secured would even the series. The 49ers won the most recent matchup of the squads, 27-13 at home on Dec. 9, 2012. The most famous head-to-head in the series occurred in Super Bowl XIX in Palo Alto, Calif., with the 49ers prevailing 38-16.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Coach Chip Kelly reiterated this week that his club is a run-first team, so you can bet Carlos Hyde will get first crack at denting a Miami defense that has allowed the fifth-most rushing yards in the league this season.

The Los Angeles Rams seemed to have that same game plan last week, and it resulted in an early 24-yard touchdown run by Todd Gurley. But the Dolphins toughened up after that, limiting Gurley to 76 yards and holding the Rams without another touchdown.

Miami wants to impose its physical mentality on San Francisco offensively by running the ball with Jay Ajayi and controlling the clock.

Even with three offensive starters missing last week against the Los Angeles Rams the Dolphins found a way to run the ball effectively (98 yards, 5.2 yards per carry).

Defensively, Miami wants to stop the San Francisco running game and use its defensive front, led by end Cam Wake and tackle Ndamukong Suh, to harass 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
49ers QB Colin Kaepernick vs. Dolphins DE Cameron Wake. If the Dolphins are able to shut down Carlos Hyde like they did Todd Gurley last week, it’ll be up to Kaepernick to do some damage with outside runs. Marcus Mariota (60 rushing yards and a touchdown) and Tyrod Taylor (a rushing score) were able to have success running on Miami this season.

Dolphins WR DeVante Parker vs. 49ers CB Rashard Robinson. The 49ers will be without their top cover corner,

Jimmie Ward, this week, so you know where the bull’s-eye will be on their defense: rookie replacement Robinson. His task is no easy one. He’ll have to deal with Parker, who is coming off two big games and appears to be fulfilling his predraft promise.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: SS Jaquiski Tartt. The second-year safety will move farther from the line of scrimmage than he’s accustomed this week as he’ll be asked to replace injured free safety Eric Reid. It’ll be interesting to see whether the Miami Dolphins can get the run stopper to bite on play fakes and maybe take advantage of his lack of experience in deep coverage.

FAST FACTS: In his past four games vs. the AFC, 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick has thrown seven TD passes and no interceptions. He has lost eight straight road starts. Steve DeBerg lost a team-record 14 straight in 1978-79. … Miami QB Ryan Tannehill threw two TD passes in the final five minutes of 14-10 win at Los Angeles last week. In the past five games, he has six passing TDs and one interception. … Miami RB Jay Ajayi has rushed for 685 yards and four TDs in the past five games. He leads NFL running backs with 5.6 yards per carry and ranks second with 28 carries of 10 yards or more. … After starting 1-4, the Dolphins have won an AFC-best five straight games. Miami has won four straight games via fourth-quarter comeback, the second-longest streak in the Super Bowl era.

PREDICTION: These teams are streaking in opposite directions, and it’s tough to see the 49ers rising up against the suddenly gritty Dolphins.

THEIR PICK: Dolphins, 30-20.
–Chris Cluf

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