Chargers vs. Dolphins: Takeaways from San Diego's 20-16 Loss to Miami
The San Diego Chargers have now dropped three straight games since coming off their bye week, and their most recent loss to the Miami Dolphins may have sealed their fate in the running for a wild-card slot.
The Chargers managed to score just one touchdown in addition to three field goals, while the Dolphins scored 10 points in the second half to nab the win. Philip Rivers threw for 298 yards and a touchdown, outdoing his competition in Ryan Tannehill, who finished with 268 yards and a touchdown.
Tannehill, however, came out the victor, as the offense combined for 435 yards and a 39-yard touchdown by Charles Clay in the third quarter that gave Miami the edge on the scoreboard.
Here are takeaways from the Chargers' 20-16 loss to the Dolphins, who had lost three of their last four heading into the matchup with San Diego.
Mistakes Cost Chargers in 1st Half
Rivers throws interception on intended pass for Vincent Brown
For the second time in three games, the connection between Rivers and Brown resulted in an interception due to miscommunication on the route. Brown ran inside, and Rivers sent his pass outside where he assumed Rivers would be.
Derek Cox drops surefire interception
Cox, who was benched in two of San Diego's last three games, had a chance at an easy interception that bounced off his hands. Cox was just one play away of getting back into the good graces of the coaching staff and fans, but it's just been that type of year for the former Jacksonville Jaguar.
Fumble recovery negated by roughing the passer penalty
Shareece Wright's fumble recovery near the goal line was wiped away after Corey Liuget was called for roughing the passer. Liuget, who clearly had time to pull up on the late hit, cost his team a turnover and six points as the Dolphins punched in a score on the ensuing possession.
Late touchdown nullified by penalty
Antonio Gates nearly had his second touchdown of the game in the first half, but Rivers took one step too many across the line of scrimmage before he let the pass go.
Mistakes Continue in 2nd Half
Keenan Allen's 13-yard gain negated by taunting penalty
Allen had some words for his defender after the catch, and officials didn't hesitate to throw the flag, erasing the positive gain and pushing the offense backward.
Missed tackles by Marcus Gilchrist and Donald Butler on a 39-yard score by Charles Clay
Poor tackling was evident all across the board for the Chargers defense, but the touchdown catch by Clay in the third quarter couldn't have proved that point any better. Gilchrist and Butler each had a shot at Clay as he galloped to the end zone, and neither could bring down the Miami tight end.
D.J. Fluker allows sack on pivotal fourth-quarter drive
After Miami tacked on a field goal to make it 20-16 in the fourth quarter, San Diego's ensuing drive was cut short after Olivier Vernon charged right past Fluker for a sack on third down.
Battered Offensive Line Survives but Gives Up 3 Sacks
The good news is that the Chargers offensive line didn't suffer any injuries. The bad news is it gave up three sacks on some key drives during the game.
Chad Rinehart returned at guard for the Chargers, but the absence of King Dunlap forced Fluker to move over to left tackle. The rookie made some good blocks here and there and fared pretty well in pass protection, but he had trouble down the stretch protecting Rivers' blind side.
Rivers Picking Up Yardage, but Touchdowns Coming at a Premium
Since the bye week, scoring touchdowns has been a challenge for the San Diego offense. The running game has only accounted for four touchdowns this season, so its up to Rivers and the Chargers receivers to produce points.
Through three games, Rivers has thrown for 857 yards with only three touchdowns as the Chargers continue to settle for field goals. Uncoincidentally, the Chargers have lost all three of those games because they haven't been able to keep up on the scoreboard.
Big Day for Ladarius Green
Who says you can't make plays as a third-stringer? Ladarius Green played like a No. 1 for the Chargers, as he finished with four catches for 81 yards—passing Gates as the leading receiver on the day.
Green, who is in his second year with the Chargers, is playing well two years removed from his college days at Louisiana-Lafayette. His performance against the Dolphins brings his total on the season to 11 catches for 229 yards.
Green stepped up for San Diego when Allen left the game late with what appeared to be a knee injury.
Defense Gets to Tannehill, but Passing Game Flourishes
Behind the league's worst offensive line, Tannehill was sacked four times by the Chargers defense. Problem is, Tannehill still completed 22 of his passes—15 of which went for first downs.
Four Miami receivers finished with four or more catches, including Clay, who went for 90 yards and a touchdown on six catches. Coverage in the secondary has been a problem for San Diego, but 268 yards passing isn't all that bad compared to past games.
The issue Sunday was allowing Tannehill to complete his passes when he should have been tackled for a loss. The Dolphins quarterback showed off some impressive mobility skills in the pocket.
Ryan Mathews Carries for a Season High in Rush Yards
Ryan Mathews had his breakout game of the season, finishing with 127 yards on the ground while averaging 6.7 a carry.
The San Diego running back ran with a head full of steam, even ripping off a career-high 51-yard gain at one point. Unfortunately, Mathews struggled to stay in the game yet again, as he tended to a hand injury before re-entering the game.
Chargers Rack Up 10 Penalties
The 10 penalties recorded by San Diego were a season high, and more than a few had game-changing implications. Silly penalties and poor tackling really killed San Diego's chances at winning the game, and they will definitely be things the team looks back on as it prepares for a rough meeting with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Mistakes and tackling like the kind that occurred Sunday won't fly against the Chiefs. Especially on offense against one of the league's better defenses that thrive off mistakes.