The Chargers have been in every game this season. Even with a 2-6 record coming into Sunday afternoon, they could honestly say they had a chance to win every single one of them. That finally ended against the Dolphins, who proved to be the much more prepared team from the beginning en route to a 29-21 loss in Miami.
The Chargers got a shock to their system on just the second play of the game when the Dolphins sent the house — something that was discussed and expected all week — and got home to Herbert for a loss of 13. Two plays later, punter Ty Long double-clutched the snap and his punt was blocked before being recovered by the Dolphins at the Chargers’ one-yard line.
Running back Salvon Ahmed, a 2020 undrafted free agent, dove into the end zone to give the Fins an early 7-0 lead.
After a successful punt by the Bolts on their next drive, rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa marched the Dolphins 88 yards in 13 plays before he hit a wide open Jakeem Grant for a three-yard score to increase their lead to 14-0.
With all the pressure in the world to make something happen, the Bolts went three-and-out for the second time in three drives. The Dolphins were seemingly going to put this game away early, but a fumbled snap between Tua and center Ted Karras led to a Nick Vigil recovery that he sprinted back 44 yards the other way before being tackled at the MIA 33.
The Chargers finally got into the end zone 11 plays later on what seemed like the first quarterback sneak executed with Herbert under center as the rookie fell in almost untouched from the one-yard line.
With the score at 14-7, both teams traded punts the next two drives. But a 20-yard return by Miami’s Jakeem Grant set the Dolphins up at the LAC 47 a little over a minute left in the half and the offense was able to get enough yardage to set kicker Jason Myers up with a 50-yard field goal that he converted right down the middle.
On the other side fo the break, the Chargers defense came through in a big way, forcing a three-and-out and allowing a single yard to start the second half.
Running back Kalen Ballage — who finished with 102 total yards of offense on the day — touched the ball four times and helped churn out some tough yards on the ensuing 11-play drive. It was capped off by a two-yard touchdown toss from Herbert to tight end Hunter Henry on a designed rollout to the right. At one point, Herbert threatened to run it in himself before firing a dart to a lonely Henry in the back of the end zone.
At 17-14, this game seemed like it was still anyone’s contest, but that idea evaporated fairly quick in the coming moments.
The Bolts held the Fins to a field goal on their next drive to keep the score within a touchdown at 20-14. Unfortunately, six plays later, Herbert threw a questionable pass to a well-covered Mike Williams that was picked off by Pro Bowl cornerback Xavien Howard and taken back 28 yards into Chargers territory.
Five plays later, Tua hit a wide open Durham Smythe for his second touchdown toss of the day. They tried a two-point conversion attempt but the pass was knocked away to keep the score at 26-14.
The next three drives went as such: three-and-out for the Chargers, a rare missed field goal by Myers, and then a turnover-on-downs by the Bolts when some intense pressure forced an incomplete throw by Herbert to Keenan Allen.
The Dolphins killed some time inside the LAC 45, knocking off 2:38 off the clock before kicking another field goal to go up 29-14 with 3:59 left in the game.
At this point, the Chargers needed a pair of touchdowns and a two-point conversion. They managed the first touchdown, but taking two solid minutes off the clock wasn’t ideal. Garbage time touchdowns count all the same, and Herbert was able to connect with Allen from 13 yards out with 1:57 on the clock. The PAT was good, and they still trailed 29-21.
With the Bolts out of timeouts, the Dolphins only needed to kneel it three times and the rest was history. Tagovailoa moved to 3-0 as the starter for the Dolphins and the Chargers dropped to 2-7 on the year, with Herbert holding a 1-6 record.
Herbert, despite having one of his rougher outings, still finished with three total touchdowns, but threw for a season-low 187 yards — his first game below 200. On the year, he has 20 total touchdowns and six interceptions.
The Chargers are back at home next week against the 0-9 Jets.