Despite San Diego's long list of injured players, the Dolphins couldn't overcome the Chargers' downfield passing attack or bruising, two-headed rushing game.
Moreover, Chad Henne was forced out of the game early in the first quarter with a shoulder injury. Matt Moore stepped in and looked solid, but he suffered from horrendous pass protection and dropped passes.
The Dolphins head into their Week 5 bye week as the frontrunners for Andrew Luck, but there's still valuable lessons to be learned from this Week 4 loss.
At the outset of the game, the Dolphins—without starting running back Daniel Thomas—finally seemed willing to truly utilize Reggie Bush's dynamic athleticism.
Although Bush went largely neglected in the passing game (only two targets), he rushed outside of the tackles to promising success. However, as the game progressed, Brian Daboll and Tony Sparano reverted to pounding Bush up the middle—an obviously futile scheme.
Hopefully the Dolphins' coaching staff will start to utilize Bush like they did in the early portions of this game regularly.
Even when Daniel Thomas returns (presumably after next week's bye), it's time for the Dolphins to feed Lex Hilliard the ball in short yardage situations.
Hilliard trucked his way into the end zone on back-to-back plays (one was called back for penalty), and finished the game with six carries for 20 yards.
Hilliard's performance only verifies the flashes of overpowering short yardage prowess that he showed in the preseason. Daniel Thomas deserves a shot at proving himself in such situations, but until then, Hilliard should be the guy at the goal line.
If it wasn't last week, it's now safe to say that Tony Sparano's preseason offensive line shuffling has gone awry.
Matt Moore was under consistent pressure for much of the afternoon, and the Chargers defense managed to rack up three sacks and six quarterback hits.
This marks the second straight season that Miami's offensive line has proven to be a huge liability, and this is one of the primary factors that will have Tony Sparano fired. However, Jeff Ireland might be at equal fault for the line's woes, and it will be nearly impossible for him to defend its performance.
I said it during the preseason and I'll say it now: Matt Moore gives the Dolphins a better chance to win than Chad Henne does.
Look, Moore is no Pro Bowler, but he puts great zip on the ball, isn't afraid to take risks and play aggressively, and he loves throwing the ball to Brandon Marshall.
We still don't know the extend of Henne's injury, but I would love to see what Moore could do with a full week of preparation with the first team. He kept the Dolphins in a tough road game despite coming off of the bench.
Assuming Henne's injury isn't too serious, he will probably be the team's starter for the foreseeable future. However, the Dolphins have nothing to lose by giving Moore a chance to start later in the season.
While most of Miami's secondary played terribly through the first few weeks of the season, Sean Smith and Yeremiah Bell remained bright spots.
Unfortunately, they couldn't keep it up.
Both Smith and Bell were torched by Vincent Jackson before he left the game with injury. Had Jackson not been forced out, this game could have gotten extremely ugly.
To their credit, Miami's secondary did look exceptional on a few occasions, especially later in the game. But as each week passes, the Dolphins' defensive backs look increasingly worse.
The Dolphins mortgaged a pair of second-round draft picks in exchange for Brandon Marshall last summer, assuming he would replicate the dominance he showed in Denver.
Granted Marshall hasn't played with a quality quarterback here, he now leads the league in drops.
Marshall is supposed to be the centerpiece of this offense, and this is inexcusable. It's difficult to criticize Marshall but he needs to fix this issue soon.
Tony Sparano entered the 2011 season on the hot seat, and after an 0-4 start and a bye week approaching, it's very plausible that Stephen Ross decides to fire him.
Attendance is already suffering the side effects of the Dolphins' struggles, and Ross won't tolerate futility.
However there's a huge obstacle to firing Sparano: Miami doesn't really have an interim coach on the staff. Mike Nolan sounds like a good interim replacement, but his defense currently ranks at the very bottom of the NFL rankings.
Sparano might give the 'Fins a better chance to win than Nolan or Brian Daboll, but Ross might have to oust him in order to please his fans.