By Cameron Buford, Whatsgoodinsports.com
For the second time in as many seasons, the 2-6 Los Angeles Chargers travel to South Florida to take on the 5-3 Miami Dolphins on 83 degrees afternoon at the Hard Rock Stadium. What makes this game even more intriguing is it will a matchup between the #5 and #6 draft picks from this the past April’s NFL Draft. As Tua Tagovailoa was drafted by the Dolphins with the #5 pick, this left Justin Herbert on the board for the Chargers who draft had the #6 pick in the said draft.
Where Tua Tagovailoa was put in the game to replace veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, a few short weeks ago, amidst much concern across the league. Justin Herbert was thrust into his role in Week 2 after a unique unprecedented injury to starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Because 2020 has been a season, unlike any others, for this country and the NFL, neither QB had a pre-Season to adjust to the league and polish up their skills.
After a less than impressive debut, Tagovailoa was assisted by the defense and special teams of the Dolphins as they beat the Los Angeles Rams in every phase of his initial game. In his second start, the QB known to most as simply,Tua showed the promise and excitement he was expected to be coming out of the draft. Against the Arizona Cardinals Tua showed the elusiveness, accuracy, and strong-arm that coaches and GM’s were salivating over going into the draft.
Since being thrust in the starting lineup, due to a medical mishap, Justin Herbert has shown one or two things, preseason may be overrated or he’s that special. In 7 weeks, Herbert has thrown 17 touchdowns passes and is on pace to break the NFL rookie record for touchdown passes in a season, which has him tied for fifth in the AFC. He also recorded the first win in pro football history by a rookie quarterback while posting 300 passing yards, three touchdown passes, a rushing score, and no interceptions. In four games, Herbert has tossed three-plus touchdowns in four separate games, which ties him for the most by a rookie since the merger.
Herbert tossed at least three touchdowns in each game of October, totaling 10 touchdowns to one interception. The 10 touchdowns made the Oregon product just the third rookie in NFL history to toss double-digit scores during the month. Tagovailoa on the other hand won both of his starts, although his second outing was much more impressive than his initial outing, where he received the assistance of the defense and special teams as they overwhelmed the Los Angeles Rams.
However, in this 30th matchup between these two teams, the Chargers will be without All-Pro Defensive End Joey Bosa and 3rd year Running Back Justin Jackson and the Dolphins will be without their young Defensive Tackle Christian Wilkins. Each of these coaches is fairly new to this franchise series, Chargers Head Coach Anthony Lynn is 1-1 and Dolphins Brian Flores is 0-1. The Dolphins lead the all-time series 16-14 and have won 2 of the last 3 matchups. When asked about Justin Herbert, Dolphins Head Coach Brian Flores mentioned that “Herbert’s done a good job, a really good job early on. He’s big, he’s strong, he’s athletic, He’s a lot to deal with!” Flores said in the closing part of the opposing Head Coach media session, “their (the Los Angeles Chargers) record is misleading.”
In his special way, Justin downplayed the fact that he would be playing against the quarterback drafted ahead of him saying, “I think it’s more important to beat the team you’re playing against.” Herbert was then asked if there’s any frustration with losing, Herbert responded by saying, “Losing is always tough, it’s always frustrating; It’s all about moving forward.” He was also asked if losing as Freshmen at Oregon burned at him, he responded by saying, “I knew that from second grade on; when I lost flag football games or kids sports basketball games. you get to figure out that losing is not fun at any level! I’ve always been competitive and I don’t think one year made that.”
The Chargers continue their futility since winning a playoff game in 2017. Not only have they not won a game that they have trailed by 10+ points at any point since Week 15, 2018, but they have only won 7 games since that recent high-water mark. It appeared that they allowed the Dolphins defense to dictate what they wanted to allow the Chargers to do on the offense side of the ball, and that took the ball out of Justine Herbert’s hand and allow their running attack to beat them if they could.
That was an awesome strategy by Dolphins Head Coach Brian Flores if that was the case, as the Chargers rushed for less than 100 yards on 29 carries. When I asked Coach Anthony Lynn about this, he responded by saying, “we were never that far out of the game, to not run the football. We’re two scores down, with all your timeouts, you can still run the football… there’s still plenty of time in the game coming out in the 3rd quarter. When we had to throw it in the end that what we did. But we had to run it, to get back in it, and keep them honest.”
Though he had his worst outing yet as a pro. Herbert still had a couple of awesome achievements. He passed for 187 yards and 2 TD’s, ran for another, and an INT. This gave him 19 scores for the season and his 6th consecutive game with multiple TD passes which is the longest streak in NFL history. Additionally, Herbert became only the 6th quarterback to pass for over 2300 yards in his first 8 starts in league history, yet the Dolphins seemed to mess up the rhythm he’s had in recent weeks. When asked about what he saw from the Dolphins defense Herbert responded by saying, “we definitely underperformed on offense. They’ve got a really great defense and they’re really well-coached and they really played better than us. they did a good job disguising their looks and well fell short today.”
Having a chance to talk to Chargers S Rayshawn Jenkins post-game, I was curious to hear from a defensive player as to the challenges they’re experiencing that side of the ball with key guys out, he responded by saying “at the end of the day you have to go through growing pains, especially young guys who haven’t seen a lot playing time in this league.”
Opening the game with a blocked punt, then an offsides penalty on defense that allowed the Dolphins to keep their drive alive and take a 14-0 lead in the game, is yet another week where the Chargers show their propensity to lose games. Coach Lynn admitted that was a personnel issue today, however, something similar seems to happen each week. He also has said multiple times this team is resilient, this resolve will be challenged in the remaining weeks of the season, and we will learn a lot about their leadership in the coming weeks when there’s not much to play for.
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