What we learned from the Chargers’ 19-17 loss to the Dolphins

Here’s what we learned following the Chargers’ 19-17 loss to the Miami Dolphins at StubHub Center on Sunday:

The teams, they’re not so special

For the second week in a row, botched plays on special teams played a big role in a close defeat. Though last week’s problems were more evenly spread out between kick and punt coverages and one missed block on a field goal, Sunday’s issues fell more squarely on rookie Younghoe Koo’s shoulders — well, legs.

Koo missed a pair of field goals from inside 45 yards, inexcusable for a NFL kicker. Either would have changed the outcome — particularly a 44-yard try with seconds left that would’ve given the team a win in their first game in Los Angeles since moving from San Diego.

Making things worse, the Chargers had another kick blocked — this time a punt — while allowing a 30-yard-plus return.

Still, most of the heat will be aimed at Koo, who could find himself again competing for his job if the Chargers start working out potential replacements.


Though the Chargers have said they’ve made improving special teams a priority, the results haven’t been there.

‘Bend but don’t break’ isn’t good enough

The Chargers defense held the Dolphins to a single touchdown — an accomplishment that typically is good enough to get you a victory. But although the defense kept Miami from the end zone, it never really stopped them from scoring.

Miami had four extended scoring drives that ended in field goals, including the eventual game winner. Jay Ajayi was able to push his way to 122 yards rushing, ripping through arm tackle after arm tackle.

Jay Cutler and Jarvis Landry hooked up 13 times, and the Chargers couldn’t force a turnover.

Yeah, the defense played OK — but OK gets you to 0-2.

The blueprint

Miami might’ve concocted the exact kind of passing attack to use against the Chargers, relying almost entirely on quick passes to negate the Chargers’ pass rush.

Melvin Ingram had one sack and just missed another, and Chris McCain got to Cutler once. Otherwise, those behind the Chargers’ pass rush didn’t give Cutler the kinds of problems they certainly thought they could have.

With games coming up against Kansas City and Alex Smith and Philadelphia and Carson Wentz, teams could follow the Dolphins’ lead, protecting quarterbacks with quick routes.

Rivers needs more help

Philip Rivers’ first game in Los Angeles was a complete success on an individual level. He spread the ball around to Keenan Allen, Hunter Henry, Melvin Gordon and Tyrell Williams. He took care of the football, flirting with a couple of interceptions.

But Rivers and the Chargers’ passing offense isn’t enough — at least it wasn’t Sunday.

Whether it’s Gordon or Allen breaking a tackle, or whether it’s a big run, the Chargers need to turn 15-yard gains into 30-yard gains, giving the team the big plays that have been too infrequent through the first two games of the season.

Good for Gates

Antonio Gates caught the 112th touchdown of his career, more than any other tight end in the history of the NFL. It was a nice moment for the Chargers’ first game in Los Angeles, a reminder of a past that’s not blown leads or missed opportunities.

The crowd erupted to recognize the achievement, giving StubHub Center a signature moment — before it got another one when the Chargers lost in the final moments.

Gates will continue to cede catches and touchdowns to his eventual replacement, Henry, but he’s still a playmaker that defenses respect and scheme against. His presence on the field has been responsible for a couple of big plays this year in which he’s acted as a decoy.

There’s more there for Gates to give, but now that this is out of the way, everyone can take a bit of a breath.

Twitter: @DanWoikeSports