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By Bill Seals
Sports Reporter 

Chargers defense falls flat in loss to the Dolphins

 

September 14, 2023

The fastest player to ever play in the NFL was probably the late great Bob "Bullet" Hayes, the former Dallas Cowboy wide receiver and member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Hayes won the 1964 Olympic gold medal in the 100-meter dash in 10.06 seconds, tying the world record at the time. Today's version of Bob Hayes is Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill, who the Los Angeles Chargers are very familiar with.

Hayes terrorized NFL secondaries in his playing days. Hill has often terrorized the Chargers secondary in the past and last Sunday afternoon's game at SoFi Stadium was no exception. Hill caught 11 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns, including the game winning score with 1:45 remaining in the game on a four-yard touchdown pass from Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, to give the Dolphins a 36-34 victory over the Chargers.

Tagovailoa threw for 466 yards and three touchdowns, the most passing yardage ever given up by a Chargers defense. The Chargers also gave up 536 yards in total offense, the most they have given up in an opener since 1962. Tagovailoa completed 28 of 45 passes and was never sacked.

The Chargers defensive performance was a huge disappointment for head coach Brandon Staley and his coaching staff. The defense had looked good in training camp and in preseason. This was expected to be the best defensive unit the Chargers had put together under Staley, who is in his third season as the Chargers head coach and was hired due to his defensive prowess.

The Chargers had waited for almost eight months for an opportunity to officially change the conversation to the 2023 season and move on from their playoff loss in January. In the playoff loss to the Jaguars, the Chargers had a 27-0 lead late in the second quarter before an epic second half collapse led to a last second field goal and a 31-30 loss to the Jaguars in Jacksonville.

The Chargers had a 10-7 regular season won-loss record in 2022, despite a rash of injuries to the roster. The 2022 Chargers lacked the depth to overcome the injuries, could not run the ball consistently and were among the worst in the NFL in missed tackles. The passing attack lacked explosive plays, the offense had become predictable and quarterback Justin Herbert had become a dink-and-dunk passer.

To address the issues on offense, the Chargers brought in Kellen Moore to run the offense. Moore was let go by the Dallas Cowboys but is considered one of the best offensive coordinators in the NFL. Pro Football Focus (PFF) had Moore as the second-best offensive coordinator in the NFL entering the 2023 season.

Moore's offense had an outstanding performance. After Week 1 in the NFL, the Dolphins lead the NFL in total offensive yardage. The Chargers are second in total offensive yardage after Week 1. The Chargers had 433 yards in total offense, rushed for 234 yards, had 30 first downs and scored 34 points. They had zero turnovers.

The Chargers lead the NFL in rushing yardage after Week 1. Running back Austin Ekeler rushed for 117 yards on 16 carries with one rushing touchdown. His backup, Joshua Kelly, rushed for 91 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. Quarterback Justin Herbert threw for one touchdown and ran for another. Staley was pleased with Moore and the offensive performance.

"I thought he made good decisions today," Staley said after the game last Sunday. "I thought, offensively, we controlled the pace of the game. I thought we executed our game plan. We really wanted to run the football to control the pace of the game. I thought we played with pace. I thought we made big plays in the passing game. I think, offensively, we did enough to win this game."

They did. The offense played well. The defense failed, once again. The play of the secondary, particularly the coverage of the cornerback group, was poor. The performance of cornerback J.C. Jackson was less than satisfactory.

Staley was asked about Jackson's performance. "Not very good," Staley said. "Everybody on defense today that was covering did not have a good game. It was not just J.C. Jackson, it was our entire back seven, didn't have a great game. It starts with me, as the coach, and I have to do a better job."

Jackson struggled in coverage and committed a critical error late in the first half. With the score tied 17-17 and only two seconds remaining, Tagovailoa threw a Hail Mary pass that did not reach the end zone. All the Chargers needed to do was bat the ball down or tackle the receiver after reception and the half was over. Inexplicably, Jackson ran through the Dolphin receiver and knocked him down before the ball had arrived. An obvious pass interference call that set up a field goal that gave the Dolphins a 20-17 lead at halftime. Those three points were the difference in the final score.

"Obviously, really disappointing," Staley said. "We were just trying to get out of the half with a safe, prevent sort of defense for a last play. Obviously, we can't foul on that play. We were just trying to get out of the half. That really hurt us."

The 0-1 Chargers will travel to Nashville to take on the Tennessee Titans this Sunday, September 17th. The Titans are 0-1 after losing their opener to the New Orleans Saints. The

Chargers are tied for second place in the AFC West with the Denver Broncos, who lost to the Las Vegas Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs, who were upset by the Detroit Lions at home on Thursday Night Football. The Raiders are all alone in first place in the AFC West after Week 1.

The Titans are led on offense by three-time Pro Bowl running back Derrick Henry and five-time pro bowl wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. On defense, the Titans are led by two-time pro bowl defensive tackle Jeffey Simmons and two-time pro bowl safety Kevin Byard. The Titans will be a tough, physical opponent. The game will begin at 10:00 AM PST and will be televised on CBS channel 2 in Los Angeles.

 

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