The Miami Dolphins lost to the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday Night Football in Week 14, marking the second straight week they have lost in California. They left points on the field all throughout the night, never appearing to be in rhythm on offense and getting beaten up on defense. It was a rough night for Miami, who now have work to do if they want to surpass the Buffalo Bills for the AFC East division title.
The Chargers, meanwhile, have climbed into the AFC playoff picture with the win, holding the seventh-and-final spot in the postseason seeding, one behind Miami. They will slide out of the spot if the New England Patriots win on Monday Night Football tomorrow night, but as a team who has underachieved this year, they are back into playoff contention now and are starting to get healthy.
Here are our reactions from throughout the game and immediately after the final seconds ticked off the board.
Dolphins 17 - 23 Chargers
First Quarter Reactions
The Dolphins started with the ball, going three and out with three incomplete passes. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa targeted wide receiver Tyreek Hill deep on first down, then came across the middle toward wide receiver Jaylen Waddle on second down. On third down, Tagovailoa went back toward Hill at the first down marker, but it fell to the turf. Miami punted.
Not the start the offense needed. After the struggles last week, a good solid drive would have been a nice way to make sure they could find their rhythm early.
The Chargers did not have the same issues coming out on their first drive that Miami had. Quarterback Justin Herbert started the drive with an 11 yard pass to tight end Gerald Everett, then running back Austin Ekeler ran for 11 yards. After a run for no gain and an incomplete pass, the Dolphins appeared to stop the Chargers after another incomplete pass, but a defensive holding penalty on cornerback Kader Kohou extended the drive. Herbert threw to Ekeler on the next play, picking up 11 yards before defensive tackle Christian Wilkins stuffed Ekeler in the backfield for a one-yard loss. Ekeler then picked up two yards before Herbert looked deep down the right sidelined for a 23-yard pass to wide receiver Mike Williams. Running back Joshua Kelley ran for a yard on the first down play from Miami’s 18-yard line, then Herbert threw to wide receiver Kennan Allen for five yards. After a pass to Everett picked up seven yards, Eckerler was stopped for no gain on first down, then a screen pass to Ekeler was stopped by linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel for a one-yard loss. On 3rd-and-Goal, Herbert threw to Allen who was stopped at the two-yard line. On 4th-and-Goal from the Miami two, Herbert threw into the flat to wide receiver DeAndre Carter, with Kohou making the open-field tackle to force the turnover on downs.
Not the defensive stand the Dolphins wanted to start the game either, but after 15 plays, 78 yards, and 8:39 coming off the clock, escaping with no points allowed is a positive.
Starting at their own two-yard line, Miami opened with a run from running back Raheem Mostert for a yard. After an incomplete pass, Tagovailoa finally connected with Hill for a 13-yard gain and a Dolphins first down. He connected with Hill in the flat on the next play, but the receiver fell down leading to no gain. Mostert ran on second down for no gain before a false start backed Miami up five yards. After another incomplete pass, the Dolphins punted.
The offense needs to wake up. This trip out west, starting last week against the 49ers and continuing into this week, has thrown them completely out of rhythm. Something has to happen quickly.
Herbert threw to Williams on first down, picking up 19 yards to start the Chargers’ drive. Kelley ran up the middle for five yards on the resulting first down play before Wilkins blew up Ekeler in the backfield, pulling the running back down for no gain. Herbert threw to wide receiver Joshua Palmer for 13 yards, a play that stood after Miami challenged the completion. Herbert was forced to throw away the next play as the pass rush got near him, then he was sacked on second down by Wilkins. The first quarter ended after the sack.
Not the quarter the Dolphins wanted, and for a game that was expected to be a shootout, this has been a slow start for both teams.
Second Quarter Reactions
A screen pass from Herbert to Ekeler picked up 11 yards and brought out Cameron Dicker for a 33-yard field goal. Chargers 3-0.
Holding to a field goal was good there. Now the Miami offense has to wake up.
Running back Jeff Wilson picked up his first carry of the game, but lost three yards when he was met by Chargers linebacker Kyle Van Noy in the backfield. After an incomplete pass deep down the middle, a pass that had potential but Hill never saw the ball, Van Noy got to Tagovailoa on the 3rd-and-13 pass attempt, sacking Miami’s quarterback. Miami punted after another three-and-out.
Ouch. That was not the offense waking up. They still seem just off on everything. Even when the play should work, like Hill open on the post route, they cannot make it work.
The drive started with a Herbert dump-off to Allen in the flat, picking up three yards. Herbert then threw to Kelley for six yards, with the running back then breaking off a 22-yard run. Ekeler picked up two yards on the next play, followed by pass from Herbert to Williams for the ten-yard score. Charger 10-0.
Just nothing working right on either side of the ball for Miami. This is not pretty right now. They have to make some adjustments.
After an incomplete pass targeting tight end Mike Gesicki, the Dolphins were gifted a defensive pass interference penalty on a pass targeting Waddle, moving the ball out to the 35-yard line and giving Miami a first down. Wilson picked up six yards on the next pay, then carried again for six yards, but fumbled as he was being tackled - only to have the ball somehow roll to Hill, who turned it into a 57-yard fumble recovery touchdown. Chargers 10-7.
One of the weirdest plays ever, but it works and the Dolphins are on the board.
The Chargers started the drive with a two-yard run, with linebacker Jaelan Phillips making the tackle. Herbert threw to Ekeler in the flat on second down, with Wilkins making the immediate tackle for a three-yard gain. After a false start penalty, safety Eric Rowe recorded his first career sack and Los Angeles was forced into a three-and-out.
The defense is fired up now. That play was something special and hopefully it fires up the offense too.
Miami started their drive with a 20-yard run from Wilson, but two straight incomplete passes set up a 3rd-and-10. Tagovailoa found wide receiver Cedrick Wilson for 12 yards, keeping the drive alive. Mostert then picked up a first down before an incomplete pass and a Dolphins timeout. After a false start, Miami faced a 3rd-and-14, with the ball falling incomplete.
Tagovailoa is 3-for-14 with four minutes remaining in the second quarter. What is happening here? The Chargers' defense is simply shutting down everything, and even when it does appear to work, the Dolphins cannot complete passes. Just no rhythm at all.
Starting at their own 10-yard line, the Chargers began with an incomplete pass from Herbert before the quarterback found Williams for six yards, then found Allen for 10 yards. From the 26-yard line, Herbert was able to find Ekeler in the flat, with the running back turning it into a 21-yard gain. The Chargers moved into Miami territory with a 14-yard gain on a pass from Herbert to Allen as the clock reached the two-minute warning. Herbert pitched a pass forward to Allen on the next play, moving to avoid the pressure, only to have the play somehow turn into a 12-yard gain. An incomplete pass toward the endzone on first down was followed by a short-hopped pass by Herbert on second down. On 3rd-and-10 from the Miami 27-yard line, Herbert again dodged the pass rush and found Palmer for 18 yards and the first down. Jaelan Phillips finally got to Herbert and pulled him down for the sack on the 1st-and-Goal play from the nine-yard line. Herbert again tried to avoid the pressure and complete the pass to Everett, but the Dolphins read the screen perfectly to pull down the tight end for a two-yard loss. On 3rd-and-Goal from the 17-yard line, Los Angeles ran another screen, this time with Ekeler picking up 14 yards, just shy of the goal line. With 21 seconds remaining on the clock, the Chargers called timeout, then attempted the 4th-and-Goal play. Ekeler took the ball into the endzone on the run. Chargers 17-7.
It has to be frustrating for the defense, because it is frustrating watching it. The pass rush is getting to Herbert on every play. They are right there, but the quarterback somehow sidesteps it every time and finds an open receiver. It seems like every play, Phillips, Wilkins, or someone gets a hand on Herbert, but he turns it into a big play.
Miami started with the ball at their own 25-yard line with 18 seconds remaining. After a timeout from the Chargers, Miami looked to go deep, but Tagovailoa was forced to throw away the pass. Mostert then took the ball eight yards up the middle to kill the clock.
This is unacceptable all around at this point. The defense cannot stop the Chargers’ offense, and the Dolphins’ offense cannot do anything. Tagovailoa finished the half 3-for-15 for 25 yards. He came into the game with the top passer rating and the top yards per attempt average in the league, and he has 25 yards through the first 30 minutes. Nothing is working and Miami is completely out of sorts right now.
This west-coast road trip has not been kind to Miami - and if you add in the second half of the Houston Texans game when Miami took their foot off the pedal following a 30-0 lead, the team has been out of rhythm for eight quarters now. This is not the way to get ready for the playoffs, and they need to fix it immediately.
The locker room needs to be angry and frustrated during half time, then they come out looking to prove they are worthy of a postseason spot, of a primetime flex, and of being seen as contenders in the AFC.
Third Quarter Reactions
The Chargers started the second half with the ball, looking to double-up on the Dolphins after their late score in the first half. They started with an incomplete pass as the pass rush again disrupted the pocket, but Herbert was able to roll away from the pressure. After a delay of game penalty, Herbert threw short to Williams for three yards, then short to tight end Stone Smartt for eight yards, leading to a three-and-out punt.
Good start for the defense, but the story of the game is the offense. Hill is listed as questionable to return with an ankle injury, so the offense may be even worse in the second half.
Mostert started the drive with a one-yard run, then incomplete passes from Tagovailoa toward Hill then Gesicki led to another three-and-out punt.
The good news is Hill was back on the field. The bad news is Miami’s offense is still grinding to a halt. This is just bad.
The Chargers started at their own 17-yard line, picking up two yards on a run from Ekeler. Herbert was sacked on the next two plays, losing one yard as Jerome Baker forced him to slide, then having Jaelan Phillips get to him for a 10-yard loss, only to have a completely awful roughing the passer call give the Chargers a first down. After an incomplete pass and an illegal block penalty on Los Angeles, the Chargers faced a 2nd-and-17. Herbert threw incomplete on the play, then was able to find Palmer for a 15-yard gain, but left two yards on the field and were forced to punt.
That roughing the passer penalty was just horrible. There was no way that should have been called. A clean sack but because Phillips did not defy gravity, it gave the Chargers free yards and a first down. Luckily the defense was not having any of it and held. But that was miserable.
After the punt, Miami started the drive with a Mostert run for eight yards, then again for three yards. Tagovailoa scrambled on the next play, picking up five yards. After Mostert picked up nothing on 2nd-and-5, Miami called a timeout, then threw a bomb down the field to Hill for the 60-yard score. Chargers 17-14.
There was the pass the offense needed. Now they need the defense to step up again, then be able to be consistent with the movement on offense. They are still somehow in this game.
The Los Angeles drive started at the 25-yard line, with Herbert throwing to Tre’ McKitty for five yards on the first play. Then he rolled right, throwing back across the field to Williams for a 55-yard gain. They quickly ran the next play for a seven-yard gain. An incomplete pass, followed by a false start, and another incomplete pass led to a 31-yard field goal. Chargers 20-14.
Xavien Howard was beaten on the 55-yard play, and was lucky because he did not touch down Williams, who got up and picked up a few extra yards before Bradley Chubb made the tackle. Inexcusable mistake there, but it did not crush the Dolphins. Three points is okay there, assuming Miami’s offense is able to do anything.
Mostert started the possession with a 13-yard gain, nearly breaking the run and taking it to the house. Tagovailoa then scrambled for 14 yards before a run for no gain from Mostert and an incomplete pass brought up 3rd-and-10 for the Dolphins. The offensive line could not hold the pass rush and the Chargers sacked Tagovailoa for a 12-yard loss and a Miami punt.
Nope. Just nothing at all happening for this offense.
Herbert found Everett for nine yards on the first play, then Phillips blew up Ekeler in the backfield for a one-yard loss. On 3rd-and-2, Herbert threw short to Allen for a one-yard gain as the third period ended.
Fourth Quarter Reactions
The Chargers punted after the break.
A three-and-out was what the team needed. Now it is time for the offense to figure this out.
Miami started the possession with a 19-yard out from Waddle, his first reception of the game. Mostert picked up two yards on the next play, then Tagovailoa ran for nine yards to pick up the first down. Running back Salvon Ahmed picked up a yard before an intentional grounding penalty backed up Miami into a 3rd-and-19 play. The Dolphins ran a screen pass to Hill, picking up eight yards before punting.
The drive started much better than some of Miami’s other possessions but still ended with nothing to show for it. There is plenty of time to get this victory, but they are making it as difficult as possible on themselves.
Kelley picked up four yards on the first play of the Chargers’ drive, with defensive lineman Zach Sieler making the tackle. Herbert then threw an out to Allen for four yards. On 3rd-and-5 from the 16-yard line, Herbert hit Allen for nine yards. Herbert then found Palmer for seven yards before an incomplete pass. Ekeler then picked up three yards before Alle caught a Herbert pass for 18 yards. Ekeler then took the direct snap for 10 yards and a first down. Ekeler picked up two more yards on the next play, followed by an incomplete pass. On 3rd-and-8, Herbert broke containment and picked up 10 yards on the scramble. Ekeler picked up 12 yards on the next play, taking the ball to the Miami eight-yard line. Ekeler then picked up two yards before a fumbled snap set up 3rd-and-Goal from the six-yard line. Herbert threw a screen pass to Ekeler on the next play, with the Dolphins defense rallying to stop the running back for a four-yard loss. Dicker connected from 28-yards to extend the Chargers’ lead. Chargers 23-14.
The defense looks exhausted. The Chargers have run 76 plays with 38:28 in time of possession and picked up 434 yards of offense. The Dolphins' defense needed the offense to hold on to the ball for more than the 18:52 that they have had the ball tonight. The offense needs to fix a lot before Saturday.
The Dolphins started the drive with a deep attempt toward Hill that fell incomplete, but illegal contact was called on the Charger, giving Miami five yards. Mostert then caught a pass for seven yards, with Cedrick Wilson picking up another seven yards before the two-minute warning. After the break, Tagovailoa threw to Waddle for 12 yards. After a seven-yard pass from Tagovailoa to wide receiver Trent Sherfield, Tagovailoa targeted Sherfield again, but it fell incomplete. A deep pass on 3rd-and-3 toward Waddle led to a Miami field goal attempt. Kicker Jason Sanders connected from 55 yards out. Chargers 23-17.
Stupid onside kick attempt coming.
The Chargers recovered the onside kick as the ball rolled loose for a second. They knelt to kill the clock after the kick.
Miami is playing bad football right now. The defense is getting beaten when they try to bring extra players on the rush, but they are giving up too much time if they do not bring extra players on the rusher. The defense is also exhausted, however, having to be on the field for over 75 plays seemingly each week.
The offense is completely broken right now. Tagovailoa is simply off. He is not making the throws and he looks uncomfortable trying to make his reads.
Defenses are clogging up the middle of the field, and the Dolphins have to adapt to that.
Hill’s ankle injury is a major concern. Miami has a short week this week, playing on Saturday night, so there is not a lot of recovery time if he is going to be at 100 percent for Week 15.
A lot of things will be discussed throughout this week, but overall, the Dolphins are not playing well right now and they have to fix it.