Tua Tagovailoa took home the battle of the rookie signal-callers, despite Justin Herbert and Co. putting up a fight in the second half. Neither posted overly impressive numbers, but each flashed the potential their teams saw when selecting them at No. 5 and 6 in the 2020 NFL Draft.
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STORY OF THE GAME
The game was not as close as the score shows, with the Dolphins fumbling a snap in the red zone that ended one drive and missing a 47-yard field goal. The Chargers threw for a gimmie touchdown with just over a minute remaining in the contest to draw within one score.
Kicker Jason Sanders has been automatic this season thus far — his missed field goal was his first miss of the year, including extra point attempts.
Rookie running back Salvon Ahmed nearly ended the Dolphins' streak of matchups without a 100-yard rusher but finished the day with 85 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. Tagovailoa ran the ball just three times for three yards, but he showcased his athleticism in the pocket on his last pass of the second quarter. Pressure came off the right edge as he stepped up in the pocket, rolled right and launched the ball to Jakeem Grant, who couldn't quite haul it in.
Tua could not make much of anything happen deep, completing just six of 15 passes 10-plus yards downfield, but he was perfect on everything underneath, connecting on all nine attempts for 62 yards and two scores. He did have a pass that should have been intercepted when he didn't see linebacker Kenneth Murray below tight end Adam Shaheen, but the pass went right through the defender's hands and directly into Shaheen’s for the long gain.
Cornerbacks Xavian Howard and Byron Jones were lockdown on the outside, allowing just five receptions for 45 yards — and Howard snatched an interception in the red zone. Herbert had quite a few bad misses, with the worst coming on their last drive when Mike Williams was wide open in the end zone and Hebert rocketed the pass over his head. Seventy percent of his 187 passing yards came after the catch, compared to Tua’s Week 10-leading 21%. It wasn’t all bad, however, as he scampered past the pylon on a red zone rollout and found tight end Hunter Henry in the back of the end zone for another TD on a similar play.
The Chargers now find themselves at the bottom of the AFC West, while the Dolphins are now challenging the Buffalo Bills for the AFC East crown.
Outside of Tagovailoa and Ahmed, a pair of rookie offensive lineman receive significant playing time for Miami. First-round tackle Austin Jackson did not have his best outing against a strong front seven for the Chargers, allowing three QB pressures on 26 snaps in pass protection. Fourth-round guard Solomon Kindley fared much better, surrendering zero pressures on his 25 pass-blocking reps.
Defensively, defensive tackle Raekwon Davis (36) and safety Brandon Jones (25) each saw 25 or more snaps. Davis was stellar against the run, recording four defensive stops on six tackles, but was not effective as a pass-rusher, generating zero pressures in the matchup. Jones was unable to make a major impact in his time on the field, netting just four total tackles with three being assists.
For the Chargers, running back Joshua Kelley has fallen out of favor to Kalen Ballage. He carried the rock just seven times for 21 yards while Ballage received 23 touches for 102 scoreless yards. First-round linebacker Murray was the only other rookie to see the field, but it was a forgettable performance. Other than the interception that slipped through his hands, he allowed two targets to be caught for nine yards and a touchdown.
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