LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The Los Angeles Chargers were held to 273 yards on Sunday in their least productive game in more than a year, losing to the Miami Dolphins, 29-21, their third consecutive loss and seventh in their last eight games.
Justin Herbert had the first sub-200-yard passing game in his eight NFL starts, completing 20 of 32 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.
“The team pressured more than anybody in the National Football League just about,'' coach Anthony Lynn said after the Chargers fell to 2-7, their worst start to a season since 2015, when they were 2-8 and finished the season 4-12.
“They brought a lot of stuff. There's only so many things you can do. And they challenged our protection. And at times, we did not protect very well. At times, they brought one more than we can block.''
The Dolphins sacked Herbert twice and were credited with eight hits on the sixth choice in the 2020 NFL draft, one pick after the Dolphins selected Tua Tagovailoa.
“He had to get rid of the ball sometimes a little early,'' Lynn said. “Couple of times, I thought he got rid of it too soon. But he also moved around, made some plays with his legs and kept his eyes down the field and hit some open receivers. It's a great experience for him but none of us played well enough today.''
The Chargers allowed touchdowns on Miami's first two possessions to trail 14-0. The Chargers rallied to cut the deficit to 17-14 on Herbert's 2-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Henry with seven minutes, two seconds left in the third quarter.
However, they were unable to get any closer. The Dolphins drove 58 yards on eight plays on the ensuing possession to set up a 35-yard field goal by Jason Sanders.
The Chargers' next possession ended when Herbert's short pass was intercepted at Miami's 40-yard line by cornerback Xavien Howard who returned the ball 28 yards to the Chargers' 32.
Tagovailoa threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Durham Smythe five plays later. Tagovailoa's pass on the two-point conversion attempt was incomplete, keeping the Dolphins' lead at 26-14 with 11:38 to play in the fourth quarter.
Miami increased its lead to 29-14 with 3:59 remaining on Sanders' 39-yard field goal.
The Chargers cut the deficit to 29-21 with 1:57 to play on Herbert's 13-yard touchdown pass to Keenan Allen, extending Herbert's streak of throwing at least two touchdown passes to six consecutive games, setting the record for the longest multi-touchdown streak by a rookie quarterback.
After losing on the final play of back-to-back games, the Chargers' hopes for a victory ended slightly earlier Sunday when Ty Long's onside kickoff was recovered by Dolphins receiver DeVante Parker with 1:57 remaining.
The Chargers were out-gained 280-273 and trailed 30:06-29:54 in time of possession but led 19-17 in first downs before a crowd at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida announced at 12,751.
The Chargers had their least yardage since gaining 231 yards in a 17-16 victory over the Chicago Bears Oct. 27, 2019.
“I felt like we got outplayed,'' Lynn said after the Chargers' streak of scoring at least 25 points ended at five games. They were attempting to tie the second-longest streak in team history and the longest in a single season.
“Got outplayed in all three phases. I was disappointed in the special teams. Overall, it just wasn't good enough and that's on me. I understand that.''
Tagovailoa completed 15 of 25 passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns, winning for the third time in his three starts as Miami won its fifth consecutive game, improving to 6-3 for the first time since 2001.
Herbert is 1-7 as a starter.
The Chargers were forced to punt on the game's opening possession. Linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel rushed up the middle to block Long's punt with cornerback Jamal Perry recovering the ball on the Chargers' 1-yard line. Rookie Salvon Ahmed ran one yard on the next play for his first NFL touchdown.
The Dolphins drove 88 yards on 13 plays on their next possession with Tagovailoa throwing a 3-yard pass to receiver Jakeem Grant for the touchdown.
The Chargers capitalized on Miami's lone turnover for their first touchdown. Herbert ran 1 yard for a score 4:25 before halftime, 11 plays after linebacker Nick Vigil recovered a bad snap by Dolphins center Ted Karras at the Chargers' 19-yard line on a play that began on their 9-yard line and returned the ball 44 yards to Miami's 37.
The Dolphins increased their lead to 17-7 on Sanders' 50-yard field goal with 24 seconds left in the first half.
“We had a pretty good idea for what they were going to do. We just didn't execute,'' Herbert said after the Chargers lost for the seventh time in their eight games in 2020 decided by eight points or less. “They did a great job disguising their defenses. They're really well-coached. Those guys fly around on defense.''
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