Chargers defense faces familiar questions after Hill’s performance

Ric Tapia - The Sporting Tribune
Tyreek Hill took advantage of the Chargers' defense all game long.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. — The Chargers defense is becoming somewhat worrisome, especially after their latest lackluster performance on Sunday.

It is one thing to lose 36-34 to the Miami Dolphins, but as it tends to happen, it was how they lost. They gave up 536 yards to Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins passing attack.

Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel had his offense ready.

What happened in last year’s matchup was not what happened on Sunday.

Tyreek Hill played like a man possessed. Before the season, he predicted he would amass 2,000 receiving yards. Well, after Sunday, he is 1,785 away.

“It turned into a track meet in the passing game,” Chargers head coach Staley said.

McDaniel sent Hill and Jaylen Waddle on crossing routes most of the game, with Hill being the one that no one could guard.

Not only could they not guard him, they couldn’t tackle him either.

It wasn’t just Hill, Tagovailoa showed patience in the pocket while his offensive line, without left tackle Terron Armstead, held the Chargers pass rush sack less… sackless.

They have a lot of money invested in Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa, but it was tough for them to get to Tagovailoa. He was either getting the ball out too quickly or the chipping from pass catchers helped.

“When he got to the top of the drop, the ball was out, or it was well-protected with seven or eight guys in the protection, and the ball was out,” Staley said. “We needed to make bigger plays on third down.”

Third down decided the game, but before that, one big play that cost the team was the penalty that cornerback J.C. Jackson got at the end of the first half. After a 22-yard reception by Waddle, there were only two seconds left on the clock.

Tagovailoa dropped back and threw a pass down the field to Erik Ezukanma when Jackson got called for a pass interference that cost them 30 yards and allowed the Dolphins to have Jason Sanders hit a 41-yarder to give them a three-point score.

“Everybody on defense today that was covering did not have a good game,” Staley said. “It was not just J.C. Jackson, it was our entire back seven, didn’t have a great game. It starts with me, as the coach, and I have to do a better job.”

The adjustments in the second half were pretty much the same. Miami scored 17 points on five drives. On the last two drives, the Chargers defense had the Dolphins offense facing 3rd and 15 twice. The Dolphins converted both.

The defense is Staley’s specialty, but it has been questioned last season and now up until this point. In the last two years stopping the run was their biggest weakness they held Miami to 70 yards rushing. It was the explosive plays they could stop.

Miami had two red zone turnovers, missed an extra point, and still won.

“I just think it was one of those outliers, man,” defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day said. “If you look at the stats, we rushed for 200 and something yards, right. They rushed for 78 yards. We had two turnovers. They won the game…outlier… they got great players. They made great plays.”

The Chargers have spent a lot of money on the defense, and it has yet to click.

“Our offense played great,” linebacker Eric Kendricks said. “We obviously didn’t do enough on defense. At times we needed to capitalize, we didn’t.”

Justin Herbert and CO. had a strong performance, scoring 34 points, plus Austin Ekeler and Joshua Kelly rushed for 208 yards and added two scores.

This was the kind of balance the Chargers coaching staff wanted to see.

Ekeler had 117 yards, while Kelley had 91. That is the kind of balance the team seeks in their offseason.

They scored 34 points and rushed for over 200 yards while scoring three touchdowns. That should have been a win.

“That it is a loss, shit,” Allen said. “First game of the season, you want to start off strong 1-0 and we didn’t get that done.”

Herbert completed 69 percent of his passes for 228 yards and a touchdown. Miami sacked him three times, with two of those coming on the final drive.

It is only week one, but the questions about the defense are the same as those of the last few years. Why can’t they get off the field on third down? Why do they give up the big plays?

“I know we will be better, and ain’t nobody panicking,” safety Derwin James said.

The panic button should be brought out just in case, but this doesn’t get any easier. McDaniel was well prepared and made adjustments. The Dolphins attacked their weakness, which was why Hill went nuts.

Expect the Titans to run Derrick Henry next weekend.

As for this loss to the Dolphins, it either could be an outlier, as Joseph-Day said or if it is of signs to come.

“Definitely a humbling loss defensively, knowing that we didn’t help the offense at all,” Mack said.