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Dolphins outlast Chargers 36-34 in wild opener

Sep 10, 2023; Inglewood, California, USA;   Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jaylen Waddle (17) is chased down by Los Angeles Chargers cornerback J.C. Jackson (27) and safety Alohi Gilman (32) after a pass play in the first half at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Tyreek Hill’s 4-yard touchdown catch from Tua Tagovailoa with 1:45 to play served as the game-winner as the Miami Dolphins survived a back-and-forth fourth quarter and prevailed 36-34 over the host Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday in Inglewood, Calif.

Tagovailoa racked up 466 passing yards, three touchdowns and one interception on 28-of-45 passing, and Hill finished with 11 catches for 215 yards and two scores for Miami (1-0) in the thrilling season-opening victory.

The game saw seven lead changes and two ties, but the Chargers (0-1) had control early in the fourth quarter when Joshua Kelley punched it in from 2 yards out for a 31-27 lead with 14 minutes to go.

The Dolphins answered with Jason Sanders’ 45-yard field goal, and Justin Herbert led the Chargers on a 13-play, 68-yard drive that ate up 6:10 of game clock but only resulted in Cameron Dicker’s 25-yard field goal to make it 34-30.

On Miami’s ensuing drive, Tagovailoa connected with Hill from 47 yards on third-and-10 to bring Miami to the Chargers’ 28-yard line. Seven of the Dolphins’ eight plays on the game-winning drive were passes, and on third-and-goal from the 4, Tagovailoa hit Hill on a fade right.

Sanders missed the point after, so the Chargers needed just a field goal to win. But after the Chargers’ final drive began with a 10-yard catch, Herbert was called for intentional grounding, then was sacked for a loss of eight by Zach Sieler. The game was over when Jaelen Phillips and Justin Bethel brought Herbert down on fourth down.

Herbert went 23-for-33 passing for 228 yards and one touchdown. Los Angeles thrived in the run game, though, as Austin Ekeler took 16 carries for 117 yards and one touchdown, and Kelley added 16 for 91 yards and his score.

Herbert’s 1-yard TD pass to Donald Parham put the Chargers ahead 14-10 with 9:07 before halftime. Tagovailoa hit River Cracraft for a 1-yard touchdown to pull Miami back in front with 1:42 left.

The Chargers moved 43 yards in 1:33 to set Dicker up for a 50-yard field goal with 9 seconds left. But Jaylen Waddle caught a pass for 22 yards and the Chargers’ J.C. Jackson incurred a 30-yard pass interference on the would-be last play of the half. That allowed Sanders to hit a 41-yard field goal to make it 20-17 Dolphins at the break.

Herbert snuck in for a 1-yard rushing touchdown during the third quarter, but Tagovailoa and Hill hooked up for a 35-yard touchdown to put Miami up 27-24.

–Field Level Media

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