Chargers tripped up by mistakes, turnovers in loss to Dolphins – Press Enterprise

Frustrated Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert glanced at the scoreboard as the Miami Dolphins were on the verge of putting the game away after his costly fourth-quarter interception.

The Dolphins capitalized on Herbert’s mistake to prevent one of many familiar Chargers game-day situations.

There was no last-second finish. There was no Herbert versus Tua Tagovailoa shootout.

And no blown leads for the Chargers — just the familiar feeling of defeat.

The final-second gut kick wasn’t needed Sunday, as the Chargers tumbled to a 29-21 defeat with a deceiving scoreboard at Hard Rock Stadium.

The usual late-game drama didn’t transpire because the Chargers (2-7) lacked effort after Herbert’s turnover with 14:20 left. Herbert added a garbage-time touchdown pass to Keenan Allen with 1:57 remaining to give the Chargers a familiar one-score loss. They’ve lost 16 of their past 18 one-score games, including all seven of their losses this season.

The flat performance, especially on special teams, will likely lead to more questions about Chargers coach Anthony Lynn’s job security. Lynn has a combined 7-18 record in the past two seasons after starting his first two years with the Chargers with a 21-11 record.

“(I) was disappointed in special teams and some of the things that went on there,” said Lynn, who witnessed a blocked punt after his team’s opening drive. “When you go on the road, you can’t give opponents anything.

“Overall, it just wasn’t good enough and that’s on me and I understand that.”

Lynn had many late-game blunders in the first eight games of the season, but he at least had his players motivated and competitive. There wasn’t much of that Sunday to start the second half of the season.

The Chargers’ offense had a season-low 273 yards, and entered the game averaging 420 yards per game. Herbert’s interception and the blocked punt turned into 14 points for the Dolphins.

“I don’t think anyone gave up at all,” Herbert said about the Dolphins building a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter. “I think everyone stuck together. Yeah, we lost, but I think we stuck together and we’re gonna build from that.”

Herbert, who flourished against the blitz in his first seven starts, struggled versus the Dolphins’ pass rush and rarely threw downfield. He had arguably his worst performance of the season, completing 20 of 32 passes for 187 yards, two touchdowns, one rushing score and one interception. Herbert averaged 5.8 yards per attempt.

“They did a great job disguising their looks, we just fell short out there,” Herbert said about the Dolphins’ defense.

Tagovailoa finished 15 of 25 for 169 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Salvon Ahmed led the Dolphins with 85 rushing yards on 21 carries.

The Dolphins (6-3) used their familiar winning script with an opportunistic defense and special teams to stifle the Chargers. The Dolphins have won five consecutive games, and three with Tagovailoa as the starter. Herbert remains stuck with one win and a 1-7 record as a starter.

Tagovailoa extended the Dolphins’ lead to 26-14 after the Herbert interception with a 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Durham Smythe with 11:38 left in regulation.

The Dolphins’ offense scored on their first play because linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel blocked Ty Long’s punt and cornerback Jamal Perry returned it to the Chargers’ 1-yard line. Ahmed did the rest with a 1-yard run to give the Dolphins a 7-0 lead with 12:54 left in the first quarter.

With a 14-0 deficit, linebacker Nick Vigil gave the Chargers a much-needed takeaway when he returned a fumble 44 yards to the Dolphins’ 37-yard line. Tagovailoa was credited for the lost fumble, but his center Ted Karras had a bad snap.

The Chargers capitalized on the takeaway with an 11-play touchdown drive that ended with a Herbert sneak from the 1-yard line on fourth down. That was Herbert’s third rushing score of the season, becoming the first Chargers quarterback to reach that mark since 1992.

The closest the Chargers got to the Dolphins was when Herbert found tight end Hunter Henry for a 2-yard touchdown pass to trim the lead 17-14 with 7:02 in the third quarter.

“I don’t even know if I have words at this point, but yeah, we beat ourselves tonight in every phase,” Henry said. “Offensively, we didn’t play to the standard we need to play at.”

The Chargers’ defense allowed 29 points or more for the sixth consecutive game.

It’s been a frustrating season for the Chargers because of poor play on defense and on special teams with the offense often left to bail them out. All three phases struggled Sunday, leaving the Chargers with plenty of uncertainty in the final seven games.

Lynn will be tasked with keeping his team motivated with the playoffs likely out of the picture at 2-7.

“We’ll find out what we’re made of and character is always revealed in these situations,” Lynn said. “I guess we’ll find out over the next 7 weeks.”