Chargers get defensive against Dolphins

INGLEWOOD (News4usonline) – The Miami Dolphins have the No. 2 passing attack in the NFL. They have one of the best wideouts in the league in Tyreek Hill. Tua Tagovailoa, the Dolphins emerging young quarterback, has been ballin’ all season long.

And so, Miami brought Hill, Tagovailoa and the rest of the Dolphins to SoFi Stadium for a Sunday Night Football showdown against the Los Angeles Chargers. 

Los Angeles Chargers edge rusher Kyle Van Noy (8) takes down a Miami Dolphins ballcarrier during an NFL game played at SoFi Stadium on Dec. 11, 2022. Photo by Melinda Meijer for News4usonline

That showdown flamed out for Tagovailoa and the Dolphins. Without the services of safety Derwin James Jr. and cornerback Bryce Callahan, the secondary of the Chargers played lights out for most of the game against the high-octane offense of Miami. In layman’s terms, the Chargers defense put the clamps on Tagovailoa and Hill. 

Hill was limited to four catches and 81 yards, while Tagovailoa just could not get it going through the air with only 145 passing yards. The Chargers defense was responsible for Tagovailoa having a bad night, restricting the Miami quarterback to completing just 10 of his 28 pass attempts. 

As a result of the struggles Miami had offensively, the Chargers came away with a much-needed 23-17 win to keep their playoff hopes alive.   

“We leaned on each other, we swarmed to the ball. Everybody trusted each other. We came up with a really good gameplan. Everybody did their jobs, and we just flew to the ball,” Chargers linebacker Morgan Fox said after the game. “We played with great energy. Everybody kind of rallied around each other and kept playing every play.”

That energy started from the onset of the game when the Chargers forced a three-and-out on Miami and continued all the way through the end of the game. To show how dominant the Chargers defense played, Tagovailoa had completed 4 of the 19 passes he had attempted through the first three quarters of the game. 

Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Ja’Sir Taylor (36) put the wraps on Miami Dolphins wide receiver Cedrick Wilson (11) during an NFL game played at SoFi Stadium on Dec. 11, 2022. Photo by Melinda Meijer for News4usonline

Tagovailoa’s passing totals up to that point was just 85 yards with 60 of those yards coming on a long touchdown to Hill down the Miami sideline in the third period. Alohi Gilman, who had a forced fumble in the game for the Chargers, was part of one of the weirdest plays you might find on a football field.

The play in question came in the second quarter. It was by all accounts a fluke of a play that by luck and a good bounce, fell into the hands of Hill, who then scooped the ball up and ran 56 yards for a score after Gilman’s big hit and forced fumble. Outside of that, Miami had no offense in the first half.

That’s because the Chargers defense put out the blank sign against Miami. Gilman said the biggest part of the team’s defensive strategy was to pressure on Tagovailoa and disguise their coverages.  

“I think our disguise plan was premium,” Gilman said. “Everyone played well on all levels.It’s definitely team defense. So, putting it all together made it hard for Tua to see certain coverages and whatnot.”

Pressure was something that Tagovailoa felt from the Chargers defense all night. The Chargers only recorded two sacks of Tagovailoa, but they put enough pressure on the young Miami quarterback to make things very uncomfortable for him to sit in the pocket.  

“I thought it was a total team defensive effort, coverage, rush. Everybody working together,” linebacker Dru Tanquill said. “Our four-man game, they came alive; our four-down pass-rushers. You talk about Khalil (Mack), Kyle (Van Noy), Morgan (Fox), Sebastian Joseph (Day)….all those guys were able to create pressure and do a really good job.”   

Besides getting up in Tagovailoa’s face with some unpleasant greetings, what also worked to the Chargers’ advantage on defense was taking away the middle of the field, a place where the Miami quarterback likes to throw the ball, Tranquill said. 

Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen (13) attempts to make a move on Miami Dolphins safety Eric Rowe (21) during an NFL game played at SoFi Stadium on Dec. 11, 2022. Photo by Melinda Meijer for News4usonline

“We knew he loved to throw inside,” Tranquill said. “We knew he loved to throw inside the hashes. He was going to try to get Tyreek (Hill) and Jaylen (Waddle) in on those dagger routes, and so we definitely packed the middle a little bit and forced him to try to throw it outside.”

Chargers head coach Brandon Staley talked about what his team did in order to limit Hill and Waddle from going wild.  

“You just know that with [Dolphins WR Jaylen] Waddle and [Dolphins WR] Tyreek Hill, those two guys are a tough, tough, tough cover, and I say that with full respect because they’ve been doing it to everybody all year,” Staley remarked. “We felt like that we were going to be ready to play tonight and that we would have a plan to win, that we would be aggressive and challenge them, and our guys were up for it tonight.”

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