Hyped Justin Herbert, Tua Tagovailoa matchup doesn’t live up to billing – Press Enterprise

The hyped rookie quarterback matchup between Justin Herbert and Tua Tagovailoa didn’t meet expectations Sunday, as Tagovailoa’s Miami Dolphins cruised to a 29-21 victory against Herbert’s Chargers.

The lackluster first NFL meeting between top-six picks in the 2020 NFL Draft didn’t even include a midfield photo-op handshake after the game at Hard Rock Stadium.

“I walked around, shook some hands, but didn’t get to see him,” Herbert said about Tagovailoa.

Herbert had arguably his worst performance of his young career, with the Chargers falling behind early because of poor special teams play. Herbert completed 20 of 32 passes for a career-low 187 yards with three total touchdowns and one interception.

Hyped Justin Herbert, Tua Tagovailoa matchup doesn’t live up to billing – Press Enterprise
Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) looks to pass the football during the first half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Tagovailoa wasn’t as impressive as he was last week against the Arizona Cardinals, but was efficient and helped the Dolphins capitalize on the Chargers’ mistakes. The No. 5 overall pick finished 15 of 25 for 169 yards and two touchdowns.

The Chargers’ defense kicked themselves for missed opportunities against Tagovailoa. Cornerback Michael Davis and linebackers Denzel Perryman and Kenneth Murray each had a dropped interception.

“We didn’t get the ball,” Davis said. “We’re just not capitalizing on our opportunities.”

The Dolphins took advantage of short fields, scoring two touchdowns after a first-quarter blocked punt and Herbert’s fourth-quarter interception.

Tagovailoa’s best drive was a 13-play, 88-yard scoring drive at the end of the first quarter, but was aided by a Chargers’ offsides penalty during a field-goal attempt. Tagovailoa made them pay with a 3-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jakeem Grant.

“I really didn’t pay too much attention to it,” Herbert said about the quarterback matchup hype. “It came down to the Dolphins versus the Chargers and we lost that matchup.”

Herbert set a rookie record for six consecutive games with multi-touchdown passes.


The Chargers might have had more than one turnover if it weren’t for running back Kalen Ballage’s standout performance to provide a balanced offense.

Ballage finished with 102 total yards and gave the Chargers a spark in the third quarter when they trimmed the Dolphins’ lead to 17-14. The former Dolphin rushed for a team-high 68 yards on 18 carries and contributed five catches for 34 yards.

“I just want to go win a football game,” Ballage said about facing the team that drafted him in the fourth round of the 2018 draft. “It was nothing personal. The NFL is a business. Sometimes that’s how it goes.”

The Chargers ran the ball 29 times compared to 32 pass attempts.

“Some of those plays didn’t materialize because they were getting to (Herbert) before we could get down the field,” Lynn said about not throwing the ball more. “I give them credit for their pressure, it was getting to us.”


At one point in the second half, Ballage was the Chargers’ leading rusher and receiver.

The dynamic receiving duo of Keenan Allen and Mike Williams had a quiet outing versus the Dolphins’ stout secondary.

Allen had a team-high 39 receiving yards for three catches and one garbage-time touchdown. He only had one catch for 11 yards at halftime.

Williams didn’t see a target in the opening half and finished with two catches for 38 yards. Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard had a momentum-changing interception on a Herbert pass intended for Williams.

Deep-threat wideout Jalen Guyton had four catches for 24 yards.