The Chargers offense fought like heck. The defense also fought to the very end, it’s just that each side of the ball had very different results.
Justin Herbert and the offense scored four touchdowns en route to putting up 34 points, a total they put up just once during the entire 2022 season. However, you might have thought the defense refused to get off the bus the way they allowed 36 points and 466 passing yards to Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. In the end, the Bolts fell to the Dolphins 36-34 inside SoFi Stadium in the highest-scoring of Week One through the afternoon window.
It was a heck of a game. so let’s not waste any time and jump right in.
For a complete quarter-by-quarter recap of today’s game, check it out below.
The Dolphins began the game on offense and wasted little time in applying pressure with back-to-back pass plays on 16 and 35 yards, respectively. Tyreek Hill was the author of the first and fellow speedster Jaylen Waddle took the other for a big catch-and-run. On the fifth play of the drive, facing first-and-goal from the two-yard line, the Dolphins fumbled the snap and the Chargers recovered inside their own 10.
In the Chargers’ first chance to show off their new-look offense, the team mixed in some strong runs from Austin Ekeler and Justin Herbert to set up a 36-yard pitch-and-catch to Keenan Allen up the left sideline to put them inside Miami territory. Behind more strong running from Ekeler and Joshua Kelley, the Chargers were able to punch it into the end zone from a yard out via Ekeler to take the early 7-0 lead. The drive took 7:23 off the clock and the Chargers only needed one completion to march 94 yards.
On the ensuing drive, the Dolphins picked up where they left off on their first drive just before coughing up the ball. In nine plays, they marched 75 yards to tie the score at 7-7. Edge rusher Joey Bosa was called for a 14-yard facemask penalty that took the Dolphins into their red zone. Running back Raheem Mostert punched it in two plays later.
The quarter came to an end with the Chargers facing a third-and-two at their own 33-yard line.
The Chargers were forced into a three-and-out to begin the quarter and immediately punted right back to the Dolphins.
Tua hooked up with Tyreek Hill on the next two plays for gains of 29 and 28. A play-action pass to fullback Alec Ingold set the Dolphins up at the Chargers’ 5-yard line, but the defense finally stiffened up to force a field goal. Derwin James broke up a pass near the goal line to put an end to the drive. With 11:43 remaining in the half, the Dolphins led 10-3.
Ekeler broke loose for a 55-yard gain on the second play of their ensuing drive. A short pass to Keenan Allen brought them to the one-yard line and a quick slant to Donald Parham for a touchdown brought the Chargers back out in front 14-10 halfway through the quarter.
The Bolts’ defense finally got the stop they’ve been waiting for. A pair of pass breakups by Michael Davis and Eric Kendricks helped force the first three-and-out by the Dolphins. Unfortunately the Chargers also went three-and-out thanks to some strong plays by Dolphins defensive tackle Christian Wilkins.
The Dolphins took the next five minutes off the clock on their next drive that resulted in a short touchdown throw to wideout River Cracraft which put the Dolphins up 17-10 with under two minutes to go in the half.
Herbert was able to bring the Chargers all the way to the Dolphins’ 32-yard line just in time to tie things up with a 50-yard field goal with nine seconds remaining. Wideouts Allen, Josh Palmer, and Quentin Johnston all caught at least one pass on the drive.
While you’d expect the Dolphins to simply knee the clock out, they chose to air it out for the chance a quick field goal. A completion to Waddle for 22 yards put the Fins near midfield but it was the next play that likely left fans in a dark place.
Tua attacked cornerback J.C. Jackson downfield and Jackson was called for a pass interference penalty that pushed Miami 30 yards downfield. Jason Sanders came on and knocked home a 41-yarder to raise the lead to 20-17 as time expired.
The Chargers began the second half the same they began the first.
Behind more strong and consistent gains on the ground by both Ekeler and Kelley, the Chargers found themselves at the Miami one-yard line following a pair of penalties by the Dolphins. With backup center Will Clapp lined up in the backfield at fullback, Herbert took the snap and surged forward behind center Corey Linsley for a short touchdown plunge. With over five minutes taken off the clock in the third, the Chargers were back on top 24-20.
It was more of the same for the Dolphins, as well, to begin their first drive of the second half. Hill remained uncoverable and helped lead the Dolphins all the way to the Chargers’ 26. But on a third-and-12, Tua threw up a pass to wideout Braxton Berrios but the ball ended up in the arms of J.C. Jackson. Despite getting torched for most of the day, the big-money corner finally picked off his first pass as a Charger.
Unfortunately, Jackson took the pick out of the end zone and went out of bounds at the four-yard line. That put the Chargers inside the shadow of their own goalpost. With two plays, Herbert had the Bolts in a third-and-one situation at their own 13. However, the Dolphins sent a blitz that went untouched when the Chargers were in an empty formation and Herbert was sacked one yard outside his end zone to force a punt.
On the first play of the next drive for the Dolphins, Tua hit a streaking Hill down the left sideline who ran clear past Jackson for a 35-yard touchdown. Just like that, the Chargers were all of a sudden down 27-24.
Before the end of the quarter, the Chargers were driving with the ball on the Miami 17-yard line.
After the break, the Chargers leaned on Kelley who rushed three times for 12 yards, including a two-yard score to push the Bolts back in front 31-27. Following the score, the Chargers had officially rushed for over 200 yards on the day.
The Dolphins threatened once again on offense. Despite facing a third-and-15 following a Tua fumble, Miami still managed to convert with a 16-yard pass to Braxton Berrios. That was followed by a 19-yard gain to Ingold through the air.
It wasn’t until the Chargers forced another third-and-15 where they finally got a stop. Sanders came on to convert a 45-yarder to bring Miami within one at 31-30.
The Chargers added on to their lead with a short field goal on their next drive. Kelley and Ekeler once again did most of the work on the ground but the Bolts couldn’t punch it in. With roughly four minutes remaining, the Bolts held a 34-30 lead.
Hill and Tua continued to break the back of the Chargers until the very end. They hooked up for 47 yards on a do-or-die drive just one play after Kenneth Murray looked to return a fumble for a touchdown. Five plays later, Tua hit Hill right over the head of Michael Davis to go ahead 36-34 with the Jason Sanders missing the extra point.
With 1:45 left on the clock to get into field goal range, the wheels officially came off for Herbert and the offense. The drive began with a 10-yard pass to Gerald Everett. From there, here’s how it went:
- Herbert is called for intentional grounding, loses 11 yards
- Herbert is sacked for eight yards by defensive tackle Zach Seiler
- Herbert hits Mike Williams for a gain of 17 yards on third-and-29
- Herbert is sacked on fourth down
It was not the sight we are all used to seeing when it comes to Herbert on potential game-winning drives, yet it somehow seemed like the fitting end to a game like this. As someone said on “X” just before their final drive, “The only thing that can stop the Chargers now is them Chargering” and that’s just what happened.
Justin Herbert finished with 228 yards and one touchdown on 23-of-33 passing. He also added 18 yards and another touchdown on a quarterback sneak.
Austin Ekeler rushed for 117 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. Joshua Kelley also recorded 91 yards and his own touchdown on 16 carries, as well.
Keenan Allen led the Chargers in receiving with six catches for 76 yards.
Alohi Gilman led all defenders with 11 tackles.
Derwin James and Michael Davis each recoded two pass breakups. Nick Williams, Tuli Tuipulotu, and Derwin James all recorded a tackle for loss.