Chargers need a win Sunday against the Miami Dolphins
December 8, 2022
There is an old saying regarding the game of football. The game is often “won in the trenches.” That is true at every level of football. The Los Angeles Chargers are struggling at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball this season and the effect has made it hard for them to win games.
This was clearly illustrated in the Chargers most recent loss, a 27-20 defeat this past Sunday at the hands of their AFC West division rival, the Las Vegas Raiders. The game was played at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. The loss dropped the Chargers to 6-6 and in dire need of a win in their next game to stay in the playoff race. The Raiders won their third straight game to improve to 5-7.
The Chargers struggled to run the football and to protect quarterback Justin Herbert in passing situations. In this game, the Chargers rushed 22 times for 72 yards, a 3.3 yards per carry average. For the season, the Chargers are ranked 31st out of 32 teams in rushing yardage per game at 84.7 yards per game and they are also ranked 31st in average rushing yardage per carry at 3.7.
Herbert threw for 335 yards and one touchdown, but it was not easy. He completed 28 of 47 pass attempts but was under constant pressure. Herbert was sacked 5 times and hit 14 times in the game. Of the 74 offensive plays the Chargers ran, 52 were pass plays, or about 70% of their offensive plays were passing plays. Herbert was under constant pressure in the game. The Raiders came into the game in last place in the NFL with just 16 sacks but had no trouble getting to Herbert.
Raider quarterback Derek Carr, on the other hand, barely got touched in the game. Carr was not sacked and was hit just twice in the game. The Charger defense could not stay with Raider wide receiver Devante Adams, who caught 8 passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns. He caught all eight of his targets in the game.
Raider running back Josh Jacobs rushed 144 yards on 26 carries, adding a 20-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Jacobs averaged 5.5 yards per carry. That was not unexpected, since the Chargers are allowing 5.4 yards per carry, which is last in the NFL. On a per game basis, the Chargers allow 151.5 yards per game, which is 29th in the NFL.
The defense gave the Chargers an early lead on 26-yard interception return for a touchdown from cornerback Bryce Callahan, giving the Chargers an early 7-0 lead. The Chargers added a field goal to take a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter. That is where the Raiders took over, going on a 27-3 run to take a 27-13 lead in the fourth quarter.
Herbert did lead the Chargers to one offensive touchdown in the game. With just under nine minutes to play in the game, on a fourth-and-12 from the Raiders 35-yard line, Herbert rolled to his right to avoid the pass rush, and on the run threw a laser to the end zone, connecting for a 35-yard touchdown pass with wide receiver Keenan Allen. The throw went 50 yards in the air and was caught by Allen despite being draped in coverage by defensive back Amik Robertson. That cut the Raiders lead to 27-20.
Despite that terrific effort, the Chargers were unable to get any closer. At his Wednesday press conference, Charger head coach Brandon Staley stated the obvious about his team and the importance of the upcoming matchup with the Miami Dolphins.
“We’re a game out in the AFC,” Staley said. “We have to search to play our best football down the stretch and find that formula each week. I think that’s what we have had to do all season is really week to week, we have really had to adapt every week to a new week. That’s how the NFL is and that is how this week is going to be versus Miami, is finding that formula for this game with the group that we have that is going to be at the game. We’re going to be working hard at practice, get our team back physically for this game, and then go try to play our best.”
The Chargers have been devastated by injuries this season. They were missing three starters on the offensive line for the Raiders game, and their rookie right guard injured his shoulder during the game. The Raiders have two of the best players at their position in the NFL in Adams and Jacobs. Adams is tough to matchup with, and Jacobs is a physical runner that can be hard to bring down. But the Chargers need to play better on defense, they need to block better on offense.
The Chargers are second in pass-run ratio in the NFL at 65.3%, behind only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, at 66.3%. The Chargers and the Bucs have the two worst rushing offenses in the NFL, which is the primary reason they both throw the ball so much. Like the Chargers, the Bucs are 6-6, but the Bucs are fortunate to be in the NFC South, where they are in first place and likely will win the division and host a home playoff game.
The Chargers are a game behind the New York Jets for the 7th and final playoff berth in the AFC. The Dolphins are 8-4 on the season and own an explosive offense. They have a lot of speed on the outside, led by wide receiver Tyreek Hill, who has burned the Chargers many times in the past with his speed when he was with the Kansas City Chiefs. They are ranked 4th in total offense in the NFL and 2nd in passing yardage per game in the NFL.
The Dolphins game will be played at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday Night, December 11th . The game will begin at 5:20 p.m. and will be televised nationally on NBC. The Chargers need to run the ball in this game and control the time of possession. The Dolphins have been vulnerable against the run. The Chargers need to be much more competitive at the line of scrimmage, on both sides of the ball if they want to win and keep their playoff hopes alive.