What. A. Game!
The week one game against Herbert and the Chargers had everything you could hope for as a fan. Tua posted a 28/45 for 466 yards, three touchdowns, one interception, and one lost fumble stat line, and Tyreek Hill went wild with 11 catches for 215 yards and two touchdowns. The story for the rest of this week will be those two guys, which is well deserved. However, let’s dive a little deeper into what went right and what went wrong.
What Went Wrong
Let’s start with some of the miscues before we relive the great moments that led the Dolphins to victory. The Miami Dolphins received the opening kickoff and drove down the field like a hot knife through butter. Before that, the game’s first snap was fumbled but recovered by Tua to keep the offense on the field. After avoiding devastation, Tua found Tyreek Hill for a 16-yard gain; the next pass was to Jaylen Waddle for 35 yards. Following back-to-back pass plays, Salvon Ahmed ran for 5 yards, followed by Erik Ezukanma rushing for 12 yards. Here come the Dolphins, 1st and goal on the opening drive, another fumbled snap this time; the Chargers would recover, leading to a touchdown drive by Herbert, putting them up 7-0.
Connor Williams attributed the fumbled snaps to “first game jitters,” but he held out briefly during training camp due to his desire for a new contract. Also, Williams had some snaps during preseason that went over Tua’s head. This problem is easily correctable, and I believe that issue will be nonexistent by Week 2. Other than that, the offense was rolling. Tua did make some questionable throws, including one to the end zone that resulted in his lone interception. Other throws were forced into double or triple coverage, but overall, Tua was clutch when he needed to be and hit the throws when they counted the most.
When Vic Fangio was hired as the new defensive coordinator, everyone assumed that our defense would easily climb the ranks to be one of the best. Even someone like Fangio has to deal with the growing pains of installing a new system. The Chargers gashed the Dolphins’ defense on the ground to 234 rushing yards. That is unacceptable, and I expect Fangio to watch the film and find out how to fix that. The Chargers had minimal issues driving the field most of the game and almost scoring as easily as the Dolphins were. It’s only the first game, so there’s no need to overreact, but this needs to be addressed because other teams will watch the film and look to exploit that weakness.
Finally, I have to address the missed extra point by Jason Sanders that could have cost us the victory. Sanders was on the money for the entire game, 3/3 on field goal attempts, including a long of 45 yards. From my perspective, watching the game on TV, the extra point looked good but was ruled as a miss. I don’t believe Sanders needs to be berated for a single miss because we ultimately won, but the narrative would be significantly different had the Chargers kicked a game-winning field goal and we lost by a point.
What Went Right
Aside from Tyreek’s dominating performance, multiple things went well during the game. I will start with a largely criticized unit that ended up overperforming. The offensive line, sans Terron Armstead, allowed ZERO sacks on Tua’s 45 dropbacks. This line consisted of backup left tackle Kendall Lamm, new starting left guard Isaiah Wynn, Connor Williams, Robert Hunt, and a returning Austin Jackson at right tackle. It’s already impressive enough not allowing a single sack during a full 60 minutes of football, but add in the fact that the Chargers pass rushers are Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack, and you can’t help but be wowed. This offensive line deserves its flowers for week 1, and fans might have to admit that Chris Grier meant it when he said we were more worried about the line than he was.
The defense looked rough, getting gashed in the middle by Austin Ekeler and Joshua Kelly, on top of letting Herbert have his way. Xavien Howard was called for pass interference twice and got tagged with an illegal use of hands penalty. These penalties gave the Chargers extra opportunities that resulted in points. At the end of the game, when the Dolphins needed a stop, the defense stepped up and shut down any hope of a comeback drive. The final Chargers drive started with a 10-yard gain to tight end Gerald Everett, followed by an incomplete pass to the right side of the field. After an extended review, it was determined that there wasn’t an eligible receiver, and Herbert was flagged for intentional grounding. On 2nd and 21, newly paid Zach Sieler burst through the offensive line and sacked Herbert for an eight-yard loss. After a timeout, facing 3rd and 29, Herbert found Mike Williams for a gain of 17 yards. The Chargers used their final timeout to set up a play for 4th and 12, with the game on the line, down by two. At this moment, Vic Fangio dialed up a blitz; Jaelan Phillips and Justin Bethel met at the quarterback and took him to the ground, forcing the turnover on downs, leading to a victory formation for Tua and the Dolphins.
Last but not least, Tua Tagovailoa. When plays needed to be made, he made them. On a 3rd and 15, he completed a pass to Braxton Berrios on the sideline for 16 yards. On a crucial 3rd and 10, a gorgeous off-platform throw to Tyreek Hill for 47 yards, and finally, on 3rd and goal, a 4-yard fade route, perfectly dropped in over cornerback Mike Davis’ helmet into the arms of Tyreek Hill which would end up being the game-winning touchdown. In a shootout on the road, Tua performed immaculately in the clutch. Round 3 of Tua vs. Herbert goes to Tua and the Dolphins.
This game will not end the debate about which team made the right choice, and I still believe both teams got their guy. For the moment, and this season, Tua is in the lead, but there is a lot of football left to be played, and there will be plenty of other matchups between these two draft mates.