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Dolphins vs Chargers final score and immediate reactions in Week 1 2023

The Miami Dolphins came away with a Week 1 win over the Los Angeles Chargers.

Miami Dolphins v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins started their 2023 regular season schedule on the road visiting the Los Angeles Chargers. Looking to avenge a 2022 Week 14 loss to the Chargers in the same stadium, Miami came out firing the ball through the air, continuing their pass-first, pass-often offense. The defense struggled to slow the Chargers, especially on the ground, but in the end, they pulled off the victory.

The game was led by Miami quaterback Tua Tagovailoa throwing for 466 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception, along with wide receiver Tyreek Hill catching 11 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns. While not having the number of receptions, receiver Jaylen Waddle’s four catches for 78 yards tied him with Hill at 19.5 yards per reception.

We kept up with all the action throughout the game, giving our reactions to everything that was happening. Reactions in italics.

Final Score

Dolphins 36 - 34 Chargers

Immediate Reactions

What a game. It was almost exactly as predicted with the final team with the ball winning the game. The Dolphins scored with under two minutes to play and then the defense showed up and got after Herbert. The game was predicted to be the second-highest scoring game of the week, and it now is the highest scoring with 70 total points.

Tagovailoa threw for 466 yards with three touchdowns and an interception, giving him a 110.0 passer rating. Tyreek Hill finished with 11 receptions for 215 yards, putting him 1,785 yards from his 2,000 yard goal. He also scored twice.

The Dolphins were not perfect, with pre-snap issues showing up, poor snaps, and a struggling rush defense, but they did enough when it came down to it. This was billed as one of the most exciting matchups on the schedule this week - even if CBS buried it on limtied regional coverage - and it lived up to it.

This was a fun game. This was a stressful game. And most importantly, this was a Dolphins winning game.

First Quarter

The Dolphins received the opening kick, hoping to avoid some of the slow starts that have plagued the team throughout the past couple of years. A botched snap on the first play was negated by an offsides penalty on Chargers edge rusher Joey Bosa. Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa then threw wide receiver Tyreek Hill for 16, followed by a quick throw to wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, who turned upfield for a 35-yard gain. A run from running back Salvon Ahmed only picked up a yard, but an end around on the next play from wide receiver Erik Ezukanma added 12 yards and moved Miami down to the Chargers two-yard line. Another bad snap ended the drive, however, as the Chargers were able to fall on the loose ball.

Counting the negated botched snap, the high snap on the Ezukanma end around and the lost fumble on the snap made it three bad snaps in six snaps. Connor Williams was struggling with the snap during the preseason, but he was solid all of last year. Whatever the issues between Williams and Tagovailoa on the snaps, they cannot have that anymore.

Starting at their own six-yard line, the Chargers marched straight down the field on Miami on the ground, trying to make the Dolphins prove they could stop it. In the 14-play drive, 12 of them were on the ground, led by running back Austin Ekeler picking up 22 yards on five carries. Joshua Kelley added another 20 yards on three carries. Quarterback Justin Herbert threw two passes, completing one, on the drive, a completion that went for 36 yards as wide receiver Keenan Allen streaked down the sideline. Ekeler punched in the ball from the one-yard line for the Chargers early lead. Chargers 7-0.

Miami again started at the 25-yard line after the kickoff. Tagovailoa had Hill running free deep down the field, but he threw the pass off his back foot and was lucky the pass fell incomplete instead of being picked off. Tagovailoa was then able to find wide receiver River Cracraft for 24 yards before running back Raheem Mostert picked up 10 yards and seven yards on successive runs. An incomplete pass set up a 3rd-and-3, with Ezukanma lining up in the backfield as a running back, taking the pitch, and picking up seven yards - only to see it negated by a holding penalty on Williams. Tagovailoa was able to find wide receiver Braxton Berrios for 11 yards, with an additional 15 yards added on a facemask penalty on Bosa. Mostert picked up 12 yards, moving the ball back down to the two-yard line - where Miami lost the ball last possession. This time, however, Mostert was able to finish the drive for Miami and tie up the game. Tied 7-7.

Williams is not having the start to the year he wanted. He held out during the offseason, wanting a new contract, but this is not the way to prove he deserves it. Just a rough beginning. Mostert ran hard on that drive. Hill left the game holding his back after that first play. Have to see if it continues to be an issue during the game.

The Chargers picked up three yards on a Herbert pass to wide receiver Mike Williams on first down, then rookie wide receiver Derius Davis picked up five yards on the next play. The quarter came to an end there.

Miami needs to hope they have shaken off the rust on offense and can get into a rhythm. Williams has to be better. The defense needs to step up and make a stop, giving the offense a chance to get back on top in this game and keep the pressure on the Chargers.

Second Quarter

A penalty on guard Zion Johnson for a false start started the second period for Los Angeles, setting up a 3rd-and-7. After an incomplete pass, the Chargers were forced to punt.

There we go. A three-and-out to give Miami back the ball.

Tagovailoa went deep to Hill on the first two plays, picking up 58 yards on the plays. After a Mostert run for no gain, Tagovailoa threw to fullback Alec Ingold on a crossing route that picked up 15 yards to move the ball to the Chargers’ five-yard line. The Dolphins attempted to set up a screen to Ingold on the next play, but it was covered and Tagovailoa threw the ball into the dirt at the fullback’s feet. Tagovailoa targeted Hill at the goal line on the next play, but the receiver could not get both feet down and it was ruled incomplete on a replay. Tagovailoa then threw toward tight end Durham Smythe on the 3rd-and-Goal attempt, but it was broken up by cornerback Derwin James. Jason Sanders converted the field goal. Dolphins 10-7.

Tagovailoa is averaging 13.2 yards per attempt. Miami is picking up chunk yards. As long as the snap is correct, the offense is having fun.

The Chargers picked up four yards on a first-down run from Ekeler, then Herbert found Ekeler on a seven-yard pass. Ekeler continued to dominate the drive with a 55-yard run up the middle of the Miami defense. After an eight-yard pass to Allen and an Ekeler run for no gain, Herbert threw to tight end Donald Parham, Jr., for the one-yard score and a Chargers lead. Chargers 14-10.

The 55-yard run was beautifully blocked by the Chargers and Ekeler hit the hole at full speed. There was just no one in the middle of the field for Miami. They cannot have that happen again.

Miami looked deep again to start their next drive, but a crowded pocket again led to Tagovailoa not being able to step into the throw and it came up short of Waddle. A rush from running back Salvon Ahmed picked up eight yards, but Tagovailoa tried to thread the needle into triple coverage on 3rd-and-2 and the ball fell incomplete. Miami punted after the three-and-out drive.

Not sure what Tagovailoa was doing there. The first down throw deep was a good try, but he was a little inaccurate and the fact that he could not step into the throw kept it short. The third-down throw was just wrong, though. He tried to force the ball into a place where it was not going to fit. Not sure if he is worried about the line coverage, but that felt rushed.

Herbert threw to Allen for seven yards to start the next Chargers drive, with Mike Williams injured on the play and having to be taken into the medical tent. After the injury timeout, running back Joshua Kelley picked up a yard as defensive tackle Christian Wilkins stuffed the run. On 3rd-and-2, Wilkins again blew up the play, tackling wide receiver Quentin Johnston on a screen pass for a two-yard loss. The Chargers matched Miami’s three-and-out and punted.

The defense is playing well, despite the chunk plays earlier. If Wilkins can get hot, the Chargers could be in trouble.

Tagovailoa opened Miami’s drive with an 18-yard pass to Smythe. Mostert then picked up a yard on a slow-developing run to the right. Tagovailoa was flushed from the pocket on the 2nd-and-9 play, but he kept looking down the field and found Smythe coming back toward him for a 16-yard pass. Moving into Chargers territory, Miami backed up to the 50-yard line on a false start penalty on guard Isaiah Wynn. A quick in-route to Waddle picked up eight yards to give Miami a more manageable 2nd-and-7. Tagovailoa threw toward Smythe on an out-route, but the pass was broken up setting up 3rd-and-7. After an incomplete pass, the Dolphins elected to go for it on 4th-and-7 from the Chargers’ 42-yard line, with Tagovailoa finding Smythe for 10 yards and a first down. Tagovailoa threw the ball away on the first play as a blitz nearly got to him, then came back to find Hill across the middle for 19 yards. After the two-minute warning, Miami turned to Hill for two receptions picking up four yards and nine yards. On 1st-and-Goal from the one-yard line, Tagovailoa found Cracraft in the back of the endzone for the score. Dolphins 17-14.

That was a good drive. Tagovailoa was able to make the right choices for the most part, Smythe became a huge part of the offense, and Hill was doing his thing. Hill now has 103 yards receiving, making him 1,897 yards from his stated goal of being the first to ever reach 2,000 yards.

Getting the ball back with 1:42 remaining in the half, the Chargers came out firing in hopes of getting a score at the end of the half, and then getting the ball to start the second half. Herbert started the drive with a pass to Palmer for four yards, followed by an incomplete pass. Herbert then threw to Allen for nine yards, Johnston for one yard, and Parham for 15 yards before two incomplete passes. After a scramble for three yards from Herbert and a Miami timeout, the Chargers connected on a 50-yard field goal to tie up the score. Tied 17-17.

Good drive from the Chargers let them get the field goal and tie it up. The Miami timeout will give them a chance to maybe kick a field goal.

With nine seconds on the clock, Miami started from the 25-yard line. Tagovailoa found Waddle for 22 yards, with the receiver getting out of bounds with two seconds left. On what looked like a Hail Mary attempt, and potentially an early snap from Williams, Chargers cornerback J.C. Jackson shoved Ezukanma down for no real reason, giving Miami a free untimed down at the Chargers 23-yard line. Sanders connected on his second field goal of the game and gave Miami a lead at the half. Dolphins 20-17.

What a perfectly done set of plays. The Dolphins were taking a chance to get some points, and it worked out. The pass interference from Jackson made no sense, given the ball was nowhere near the endzone, but it was great for Miami and the team heads into the half with the lead.

Halftime Reactions

It has not always been pretty, but it is working. The Dolphins offense is showing its ability to pick up yards in chunks, especially when Tyreek Hill is getting the ball. He has 103 receiving yards on six receptions, giving him a 17.3 yards per reception average. Not to be outdone, Jaylen Waddle has 65 yards on three receptions, giving him a 21.7 yards per reception average.

Raheem Mostert has 32 yards and a touchdown on six carries.

The biggest offensive story might be the inclusion of tight end Durham Smythe in the passing attack. Miami struggled to get the tight ends involved last year, but that is not a problem so far today. The tight end has tied his career high with three receptions so far, setting a new career high in targets (seven) and yards (44).

The defense is up and down so far. They are doing a good job for the most part, but then are allowing giant chunks of yards. They have allowed 121 rushing yards already, but that includes a 55-yard run. Up and down.

Center Connor Williams has to clean up his snapping. He has had multiple bad snaps, including the lost fumble on the opening drive, and it looked like he snapped the ball early on the defensive pass interference play just before the end of the half. The play clock was winding down, so maybe he was trying to beat it - but Miami may have gotten lucky that Tagovailoa caught the ball.

Third Quarter

The Chargers came out looking to return to the ground game, taking the ball straight at the Dolphins. Ekeler picked up eight yards to start the drive, then Herbert scrambled for four yards and a first down. After an incomplete pass, Kelley picked up 22 yards on three straight runs, then Ekeler added 15 yards on two plays. A defensive pass interference penalty on Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard moved the ball down to the five-yard line. Ekeler attempted a run on the next play, but safety Jevon Holland stuffed him for a one-yard loss. Herbert then threw another pass, with Howard again called for pass interference. Miami was then penalized for having too many men on the field. Herbert then kept the ball for a one-yard run and a touchdown. Chargers 24-20.

That was a rough sequence for Howard, who had been shutting down receivers in the first half. Miami’s rush defense, a strength of the team last year, got torched on that drive. The Chargers did not complete a pass on the drive, but took it 75 yards for the score. Not a good look.

Miami began the drive with two designed runs on either side of a Tagovailoa scramble, picking up a combined seven yards with a first down included. They then returned to their aerial attack, starting with a Tagovailoa to Hill catch and run for 30 yards. After Mostert picked up a yard, Tagovailoa connected with Waddle for 13 yards. Ahmed lost two yards on the next play, followed by an incomplete pass when Cracraft, going to the ground, could not hold on to the ball. On 3rd-and-12, Tagovailoa looked toward Berrios in the endzone, throwing up a jump ball, but the receiver never had a chance and Jackson intercepted the pass.

Not really sure why Tagovailoa threw the pass that was intercepted. Berrios is not exactly a jump ball prototype, Jackson was in position, and it honestly looked like Berrios was not ready for the pass.

Starting at their own four-yard line after Jackson tried to run the ball out of the endzone, Herbert threw to Williams for one yard. He threw threw to Allen for eight yards. On 3rd-and-1 from their own 13, Herbert was surprised by a cornerback blitz from Kader Kohou, who pulled the quarterback down right at the goal line. A 34-yard punt led to Miami starting at the Chargers’ 35-yard line.

What a perfect time to draw up a blitz and a great job by Kohou to not tip it off. Can Miami take advatage of it now?

One play. Miami took advantage of the sack and starting position in one play. Tagovailoa threw to Hill streaking down the right sideline for a 35-yard touchdown. Dolphins 27-24.

That was perfect. Make the Chargers pay immediately.

The Chargers started their possession with what appeared to be a pass from Herbert to Allen, but Howard was able to break it up at the last second. Herbert was able to find a wide-open Ekeler in the flat on the next play, however, and the running back turned the short pass into a 35-yard gain.Ekeler then completed back-to-back five-yard runs before Herbert threw a screen pass to Everett for what should have been a two-yard loss, but Kohou and cornerback Eli Apple wiped each other out and the tight end ran for an 11-yard gain. Kelley then picked up seven yards to end the quarter.

This game is turning into the offensive shootout everyone expected. Whichever team has the ball last is going to win this game.

Fourth Quarter

Kelley the ball moving for the Chargers after the break, picking up seven yards. On 3rd-and-1, he again carried the ball, this time picking up three yards and the first down. Herbert then threw to Parham for a five-yard gain, taking the ball to the Miami two-yard line. Kelley then punched it in for the score and a Chargers lead. Chargers 31-27.

What a game. This really is a shootout. Time for Tagovailoa and Hill (and Waddle) to do their thing again. Then need the defense to step up.

The Dolphins were a mess on the first play, with the receivers all confused on where they were supposed to line up. Tagovailoa had to just short-hop the pass and kill the cofusion after the snap just before the play clock expired. Then a shotgun snap was low and Tagovailoa had to jump on the loose ball. On the resulting 3rd-and-15, Tagovailoa found Berrios as he was heading toward the sideline, with the receiver sliding through the catch for a 16-yard gain and a first down. Tagovailoa then threw to Ingold on a wheel route for 19 yards. On 1st-and-10 from the Chargers’ 45-yard line, Tagovailoa again found Berrios, this time with a ball skimming the ground that the receiver was able to get his arms underneath and pull in; the Chargers challenged but the call stood. The Dolphins tried a bubble screen to Hill, but the Chargers read it well and Hill ended up losing five yards. After an incomplete pass when Hill dropped the ball, Miami faced 3rd-and-15. Tagovailoa was able to find Mostert for eight yards, but the Dolphins had to settle for the 45-yard field goal to pull to within one. Chargers 31-30.

Miami made the best out of a drive when they never seemed to be fully in rhythm. There are 10 minutes to play, with the Chargers leading by one. Miami needs a stop here.

The Chargers returned to their ground attack on the drive, looking to bleed clock and continue to gash Miami. After a short pass from Herbert to Allen for eight yards, Allen ran an end around for two yards. Kelley then picked up two yards, five yards, four yards, and three yards on four-straight carries. Herbert tried to find Allen on the next play, but it fell incomplete and the Chargers were called for an illegal shift. Ekeler then carried for three yards, followed by an incomplete pass Herbert threw just before the pressure could get to hm. On 3rd-and-12, Williams found a hole in the defense and settled in for a 24-yard gain. Kelley then picked up 14 yards on a run down the sideline. An incomplete pass was negated by an illegal contact penalty on Howard. Ekeler was stopped for a one-yard gain on first down. Herbert then threw to Ekeler for four yards, followed by an incomplete pass in the endzone. The Chargers settled for the field goal. Chargers 34-31.

The Dolphins defense bent, but they did not break. Miami gets the ball back with just under four minutes to play down by four. Can the offense put this game away?

The first play saw Tagovailoa target Ahmed, but the ball was deflected at the line of scrimmage. On 2nd-and-10, Tagovailoa threw to Ahmed again, with the pass broken up - the Chargers picked up the ball and ran it back to the endzone on what was initially ruled a fumble, but corrected to an incomplete pass. On 3rd-and-10, Tagovailoa was forced to step up into the pocket, avoiding the rush, and finding Hill for a 47-yard gain. Mostert picked up four yards before a 15-yard pass from Tagovailoa to Cracraft took the ball to the nine-yard line and the clock to the two-minute warning. Tagovailoa stepped up in the first down play, having a chance to run it, but he threw toward Cracraft who had the ball come off his finger tips. Tagovailoa threw to Mostert in the flat, who broke a tackle and managed to pick up five. On 3rd-and-Goal from the four, Tagovaloa found Hill in the corner of the endzone for the score. Sanders missed the extra point, however, keeping it a two-point game. Dolphins 36-34.

Oh come on. Miami did everything they needed there, and somehow it is not over yet. The missed extra point keeps the win in play for the Chargers. Back to hyperventilation.

Herbert found Everett for 10 yards on first down, then was called for intentional grounding losing 11 yards, a down, and a 10-second runoff. On the next play, defensive tackle Zach Sieler got to Herbert, with Wilkins and linebacker Jaelan Phillips helping clean up an eight-yard sack. On 3rd-and-29, Herbert found Williams for 17 yards, with Holland immediately tackling him. On 4th-and-13, Phllips and cornerback Justin Bethel sacked Hebert and secured the win for Miami.

Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. What a perfect time for the defense to show up.

Tagovailoa knelt twice to kill the clock.