INGLEWOOD (News4usonline) – The one thing that the Los Angeles Chargers did well against the Miami Dolphins in their season opener was run the football. With Justin Herbert not having one of his standard magnificent games, running backs Austin Ekeler and Joshua Kelley took up the offensive slack for their quarterback.
Ekeler ran through the Miami defense for 117 on 16 carries, including popping a 55-yard run on one play. Kelley, had an outstanding day as well, gaining 91 yards on 16 carries.
“I think we got some explosions, some explosive runs,” Herbert said. “That always helps when you have guys running down the field like that, it opens up the pass game. To be able to see the offensive line move the ball like that, I thought that was really good for us, offensively.”
As a team, the Chargers rushed for an impressive 234 yards and averaged 5.9 yards a run. Ekeler averaged 7.3 yards a carry. Kelley, who went for 5.7 yards per rushing attempt, said after the game that this was the gameplan.
“We knew coming into the game it was about running football, establishing the run, offensive line, and all that,” said Kelley. “That’s why we executed. But we came up short.”
What the Chargers were able to do in running the football against Miami should not come as a surprise. This was sort of the blueprint Los Angeles and offensive coordinator Kellen Moore established throughout the preseason.
The Chargers ran for over 200 yards (214) against the Los Angeles Rams, hit the 100-yard plateau (120) against the New Orleans Saints, and generated 267 yards against the San Francisco 49ers. Kelley was impressed with how the team ran the football against Miami.
“It was very efficient,” Kelley said. “I feel like we came off the ball and did everything that we could. The offensive line, I mean, came off the ball hard. It was just cool being running behind them.”
The Chargers are high on the radar list as one of those teams expected to make the postseason and then make a deep run into the playoffs. But to get in that position, the Chargers must make sure opponents like the Dolphins don’t move the ball up and down the field like someone walking to the grocery store unimpeded.
The Miami offense gained 536 yards in total offense against the Chargers in a game played at SoFi Stadium. Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa accounted for 466 of those yards through the air and tossed three touchdowns in a 36-34 road win against the Chargers in Inglewood, California.
“I didn’t do a good enough job today, getting us adjusted throughout the game,” Chargers head coach Brandon Staley said during a postgame press conference. “We tried. Our adjustments just didn’t take shape today. It turned into a track meet in the passing game. We gave up a couple of killer third-down-and-longs that, I think, really could have changed the momentum in the game for us. It just wasn’t good enough.”
Staley, whose defensive unit failed to register a single sack in the game, gave kudos to the Dolphins for coming up with a solid offensive scheme.
“Give credit to Miami. They had a good gameplan,” Staley said. “Their guys won all of the 50/50 balls in this game. They made all of the big plays in this game. We did not do a good enough job in the [defensive] passing game today and gave up far too many big plays.”
The main recipient of a lot of those passing yards thrown by Tagovailoa was wide receiver Tyreek Hill. The Chargers had a difficult time containing Hill. For the game, Hill caught 11 of the 15 passes thrown his way for 215 yards and two touchdowns. He averaged 19.5 yards per catch against the Chargers.
After the game, Miami head coach Mike McDaniel talked about the chemistry between Tagovailoa and Hill.
“That’s an offseason of — more than just two guys, but those two guys are a great example — of not focusing on anything but their craft,” McDaniel said. “There’s a lot of noise that can occur. A lot of statements that can be made. It’s the National Football League and those are two guys that really worried about the right stuff.
“That’s the ultimate hope as a coach — all that time invested and those high standards that you’re holding yourself to, that that’s rewarded. I think, today it definitely was. They were on the same page for sure.”
Tagovailoa and Miami’s offense set the tone of the game when they drove down the field on the opening drive and positioned themselves to put points on the board before a fumble inside the Chargers’ 5-yard line aborted the possession.
The Chargers also turned the Dolphins back on another series when cornerback J.C. Jackson picked off a Tagovailoa pass in the endzone. Those two big plays notwithstanding, overall, Staley didn’t think his defense measured up well against Miami’s passing game.
“I don’t think that we played the right leverages in the secondary and I didn’t think that we rushed the quarterback effectively enough,” Staley quipped. “Give credit to Miami. They had a really good gameplan and they made a lot of plays.”
Top Image Caption: Los Angeles Chargers running back Joshua Kelley (25) looks for running room against the Miami Dolphins on Sept. 10, 2023. Photo credit: Los Angeles Chargers
Dennis has covered and written about politics, crime, social justice, sports, and entertainment. Dennis currently covers the NFL, MLB, NBA, NCAA, and Olympic sports. Dennis is the editor of News4usonline.com and serves as the publisher of the Compton Bulletin newspaper. He earned a journalism degree from Howard University.