Chargers acknowledge Dolphins defense left them ‘pretty confused’

 Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) attempts to throw a pass under pressure from Miami Dolphins defense,
The Dolphins’ defense confused the Chargers and kept pressure on rookie quarterback Justin Herbert.
(Wilfrfedo Lee / Associated Press)

The Chargers entered their game Sunday well aware of Miami’s blitz tendencies, the way the Dolphins love to make opposing quarterbacks uncomfortable.

The blueprint was so impactful that, a day later, wide receiver Keenan Allen suggested the scheme was effective even when the Dolphins didn’t bring extra pressure.

“They had a great game plan for us,” he said Monday. “They executed it well. I would say we were probably pretty confused out there with all the looks they were giving us.”


Allen further explained that, having seen Miami unleash so many all-out blitzes this season, the Chargers prepared to combat the strategy — only the Dolphins went against some tendencies they had displayed.

“Every time they showed it, we thought they were going to bring it,” Allen said. “Most of the game, they backed off and played coverage. That kind of messed with our play calling a little bit.”

One of those situations led to Justin Herbert’s interception early in the fourth quarter as the Chargers were on their way to losing 29-21. They finished with a season-low 273 total yards, well short of the 420-yard average they brought into the game.

The Chargers have lost seven of their last eight games heading into Sunday’s contest against the winless New York Jets.

Allen said Miami’s defenders disguised their calls well and continually mixed up what they were doing. “Obviously, it was confusing for a rookie quarterback, as well,” he said of Herbert, who was making his eighth career start.

Coach Anthony Lynn acknowledged the Dolphins confused the Chargers at times but said preparation wasn’t an issue.

“We knew what was coming,” he said. “But it’s another thing being prepared and going through it. Yeah, when they’re applying the pressure the way they applied the pressure, at times it may have caused some confusion. But I didn’t think that was a problem for the whole game.”

Lynn called the play on which Herbert was intercepted “a learning experience,” but defended his young quarterback’s performance.

“There are a lot of veteran quarterbacks that would have struggled in that game and that have struggled against [Miami],” Lynn said. “Our quarterback, I think he handled the situation — obviously not well enough, we didn’t win the game — but I was not discouraged by how he handled the situation.”

Compounding any potential questions about preparation, Miami rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa said during a postgame television interview that the Chargers “played exactly what we thought they were going to play defensively.”

In his third career start, Tagovailoa went 15 for 25 for 169 yards and two touchdowns.

Asked about the rookie’s comment, Lynn said: “Tua’s a guy who’s going to watch a lot of film and be well prepared. That’s what that means to me.”

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) runs away from the Chargers pass rush.
Miami rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, shown running away from the Chargers pass rush, said the Dolphins were prepared for everything the defense threw at them.
(Lynne Sladky / Associated Press)

Not special

A parade of special teams miscues Sunday included rookie K.J. Hill failing to catch a second-quarter punt, costing the Chargers field position.

Lynn said Hill told him he backed off from trying to make a play because he felt the ball was drifting, possibly because of its spin. Dolphins punter Matt Haack is left-footed.

Lynn explained that the Chargers prepared for Haack by setting their kicking machine to a left-footed rotation, both in practice and again during pregame warmups.

The Chargers’ miscues on special teams, including a punt that was blocked, did nothing to help their chances in Sunday’s 29-21 loss to the Dolphins.

“He felt like the ball moved on him at the end,” Lynn said. “The last thing he wanted to do was try to catch a moving ball and turn it over. I’m glad it didn’t cause a turnover, but that’s a play we need to make.”

Hill, a rookie, muffed a punt against Las Vegas in Week 9, leading to a fourth-quarter turnover. Lynn said he does not believe Hill is dealing with a confidence issue.

The blocked punt that led to a Miami touchdown barely two minutes into the game was the result of “a simple technique error” by one of the Chargers’ lineman, Lynn said.

Punter Ty Long also bobbled the snap but, upon reviewing the game tape, Lynn indicated the punt might have been blocked even had Long caught the ball clearly.

On guard

Right guard Trai Turner’s return to the starting lineup included the five-time Pro Bowler playing 49 of 63 offensive snaps. Turner, who recently had a groin injury, had appeared in only one game before Sunday.

A lot of matters have gone wrong for the Chargers in this strange year, so seems coach Anthony Lynn should get a chance to right this sinking ship.

He also was called for unnecessary roughness in the fourth quarter after tangling with one of Miami’s defenders. Lynn called the incident “a bonehead penalty.”

“I could understand why he was upset after watching the tape,” Lynn said. “But it’s still not acceptable. You have to be the bigger man and walk away.”


Lynn said the Chargers had three near-interceptions against the Dolphins, but they couldn’t hold on to any of them. After the game, cornerback Michael Davis said he had one of the drops. But Lynn clarified Monday that he was talking about a third-quarter play involving Casey Hayward and Nasir Adderley. … Defensive end Joey Bosa remains in concussion protocol. He has missed the last two games. … Lynn said running back Austin Ekeler (hamstring) is nearing a return but isn’t expected to be ready this week. … The Chargers signed running back Derrick Gore and wide receiver John Hurst to their practice squad. ... The New York Jets announced Sam Darnold, the former USC standout, will not play Sunday as he continues to recover from a right shoulder injury. Quarterback Joe Flacco will start at SoFi Stadium.