Let the Monday morning quarterbacking begin after the Chargers gave up a stunning 536 yards, including 466 passing in Week 1. Here’s what we learned, what we heard and what comes next in the wake of the Chargers’ 36-34 season-opening loss Sunday to the Miami Dolphins:
Brandon Staley has been the Chargers’ head coach for three seasons now, and their defense hasn’t improved significantly. Sunday’s loss to the Dolphins was another glaring example of an ongoing weakness in a team that was otherwise proficient on offense and with its special teams play.
Defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day pointed to the Chargers’ ability to stuff the Dolphins’ ground game, limiting it to 70 yards on 20 attempts, an average of 3.5 yards per carry. But why bother running when you can pass as efficiently as Tua Tagovailoa did in wracking up 466 yards?
What’s more, per additional statistical research by The Associated Press, Tagovailoa’s 466 passing yards were the most ever allowed by the Chargers. Miami’s 536 yards of total offense were the most the Chargers gave up in a season-opening game since beginning play in the old AFL in 1960.
The Chargers’ pass rushers couldn’t pressure Tagovailoa because the ball was out of his hands and on its way to his receivers before Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack could get into the backfield. The “ball was out,” as Staley explained repeatedly when asked about the lack of pressure on Tagovailoa.
Meanwhile, in the secondary, the Chargers’ coverage of Tyreek Hill and his teammates was as soft as a warm marshmallow but nowhere near as sticky. The Dolphins didn’t exactly re-invent the game Sunday, but devastated the Chargers with simple patterns over the middle.
Again and again, the Chargers were several steps behind in their coverage.
Much of the postgame blame fell heavily on the shoulders of cornerback J.C. Jackson, who was playing for the first time since rupturing his patellar tendon in an Oct. 23 game against the Seattle Seahawks. Jackson was an easy target after committing an ill-advised pass interference penalty.
Jackson’s penalty with no time left on the halftime clock allowed the Dolphins to kick a 41-yard field goal, a three-point gift in a game decided by two points. Jackson also failed to down an interception in the end zone, leading to the first of Hill’s two receiving touchdowns, a 35-yard romp past Jackson.
“Not very good,” Staley said of Jackson’s overall play. “Everybody on defense (Sunday) that was covering did not have a good game. It was not just J.C. Jackson, it was our entire back seven. They didn’t have a great game. It starts with me, as the coach, and I have to do a better job.”
There was no second-guessing Staley on that final point.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
The Chargers’ ground game was a revelation, punishing the Dolphins’ defense for significant gains from start to finish. Austin Ekeler gained 117 yards on 16 carries, an average of 7.3 yards per attempt. Joshua Kelley gained 91 yards on 16 carries, an average of 5.7 yards per attempt.
Overall, the Chargers rushed for 234 yards on 40 carries, averaging 5.9 yards.
Justin Herbert was an effective passer, completing 23 of 33 for 228 yards and one touchdown. Keenan Allen caught six passes for 76 yards, Ekeler caught four passes for 47 yards, Mike Williams caught four passes for 45 yards and Donald Parham Jr. caught three passes for 21 yards and one touchdown.
By any measure, Kellen Moore’s debut as offensive coordinator was a success.
Well, any measure except the one that really counts.
The Chargers lost, after all.
“No, because we didn’t win the game,” Herbert said when asked if the offense had done enough to win. “We could have done more as an offense. We had that red zone opportunity late in the fourth. We kicked a field goal there, but would have loved to finish in the end zone on those ones.”
WHAT COMES NEXT
The Chargers (0-1) face the Tennessee Titans (0-1) on Sunday in Nashville, a team that is far more dependent on the run than the Dolphins. However, running back Derrick Henry was held to 63 yards rushing in the Titans’ 16-15 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.