INGLEWOOD — There was nothing wrong Sunday with Chargers new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore’s offense during a 36-34 loss to the Miami Dolphins at SoFi Stadium. The defense, under head coach Brandon Staley and new defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley, was another story.
The Dolphins couldn’t stop the Chargers.
The Chargers couldn’t stop the Dolphins.
At some point in the season-opening game, it seemed apparent the team with the ball last might win a game dominated by two high-octane offenses. It was every bit as entertaining as advertised unless you were a defensive coordinator. It wasn’t as if the defenses rested since they were each pushed to the limit.
In the end, the Dolphins managed to stop Justin Herbert and the Chargers in the final minute, after taking a 36-34 lead. Miami sacked Herbert on a fourth-and-13 play, ending their final chance at rallying for a victory. The Dolphins gained 536 yards in total offense. The Chargers gained 433.
Joshua Kelley’s 2-yard run gave the Chargers a 31-27 lead one minute in the fourth quarter. The Dolphins cut their deficit to 31-30 less than two minutes later on Jason Sanders’ 45-yard field goal. Cameron Dicker’s 25-yard drive with 3:52 remaining in the game made it 34-30.
Tua Tagovailoa’s 4-yard touchdown pass to Tyreek Hill then gave Miami a 36-34 lead, with Sanders missing the extra point with 1:45 left. Tagovailoa passed for 466 yards against a porous Chargers defense, connecting with Hill 11 times in 15 attempts for 215 yards and two TDs.
The Chargers trailed 20-17 by halftime after giving up a 75-yard, two-play drive in the final nine seconds of the half, hindered by a needless pass interference penalty on cornerback J.C. Jackson in his first game after a season-ending knee injury in 2022, with no time left on the clock. Sanders then kicked a 41-yard field goal.
Tagovailoa threw the ball up for grabs on the desperation heave, but instead of making a grab for it, Jackson delivered a body block to wide receiver Erik Ezukanma. Since the half can’t end on a defensive penalty, the Dolphins were gifted three free points on Sanders’ field goal.
Tagovailoa completed 16 of 26 passes for 264 yards and a 1-yard touchdown pass in the first half alone, picking apart the Chargers’ defense with remarkable ease. The Dolphins’ plays were mostly simple rollouts and passes to open receivers across the middle of the field.
The Dolphins drove inside the Chargers’ 10-yard field on each of their first three possessions, which resulted in a fumble at the 2-yard line recovered by Nick Williams, a 2-yard touchdown run by Raheem Mostert and a 23-yard field goal by Sanders that gave Miami a 10-7 lead.
The Chargers would tie it 17-17 with nine seconds left in the half on Dicker’s career-long 50-yard field goal. Austin Ekeler put the Chargers in front with a 1-yard touchdown run on their first drive. Justin Herbert’s 1-yard touchdown pass to Donald Parham Jr. made it 14-10 early in the second quarter.
Herbert led the Chargers on a 75-yard touchdown drive to open the second half, scoring on a quarterback sneak from the 1-yard line to put them back in front 24-20 with 9:19 left in the third quarter. The Dolphins countered with Tagovailoa’s 35-yard TD pass to a streaking Tyreek Hill with 2:12 left in the quarter.
In between the scores, Jackson picked off a Tagovailoa pass in the end zone. Instead of taking a knee and downing the ball in the end zone, Jackson attempted to run it out for a big gain. He was knocked out of bounds at the Chargers’ 4-yard line, setting up a short field for the Dolphins after JK Scott punted out of his own end zone. Hill then sprinted past Jackson for the touchdown.
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