Chargers running back Joshua Kelley (25) made 16 rushes for 91 yards against the Miami Dolphins on September 10, 2023 (Courtesy of the Chargers)

The Los Angeles Chargers fell short to the Miami Dolphins 34-36 in their home opener.

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert made 33 passes for 228 yards, running back Austin Ekeler rushed for 117 yards from 16 carries and wide receiver Keenan Allen made six catches for 76 yards.

A highlight for the Chargers was their plays on the ground as they accumulated 234 rushing yards. The Dolphins only had 70 rushing yards.

“We ran the ball tremendously, they couldn’t stop it,” Allen said. “They ran too high pretty much the whole game, so we just kept running the ball, giving them what they gave us. We did a great job of controlling the ball.”

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The Bolts had no answer for the Dolphins’ passing game. Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa made 466 passing yards, four more yards than the Bolts’ combined offense (rushing and gross passing yards).

“Give credit to Miami, they have a good game plan, their guys won all the 50/50 balls in this game,” said Bolts head coach Brandon Staley. “We did not do a good enough job in the passing game today and gave far too many key plays.”

Wideout Tyreek Hill, aka “Cheeta,” caught 11 of his 15 targets for 215 yards to make two touchdowns.

“It’s an outlier, they got great players, they made a couple great plays,” said defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day, “They had a good game plan and that’s it.”

The Chargers’ rushing game was strong in the first half; Ekeler put the Chargers on the board first with 4:39 left in the first quarter. His 55-yard run in the second phase was a catalyst for their second touchdown, which gave the Bolts a 14-10 lead.

Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (30) averaged 7.3 yards per carry against the Dolphins (Courtesy of the Chargers)

“There’s a lot of good things that happened during the game that we’re excited about,” Ekeler said. “But we got to be consistent all the way through the game.”

The excelling Dolphins offense also received help from the Bolts’ defensive penalties. Linebacker Joey Bosa’s face mask penalty in the first phase gave Miami 15 yards. Moments before halftime, corner J.C. Jackson made a pass interference, setting Miami up for what would be a successful field goal kick and a three-point lead.

“Definitely not the way we want to start but we got 16 more we got to go play,” said Bolts safety Derwin James. “We got to fix that, look at the tape, be honest with each other and come out ready for Tennessee (Titans) next week on the road.”

Jackson made up for his mistake by picking off Tagovailoa. The Bolts offense squandered the opportunity with Herbert getting the first of three sacks during the matchup. Herbert ultimately lost 29 yards to sacks. However, Herbert was impressed with the rushing game during the matchup.

“I think we just got some explosive runs,” Herbert said. “That always helps when you get guys running down the field like that so it opens up the pass game.”

With 3:53 left in regulation, Chargers kicker Cameron Dicker scored a field goal to give the Chargers a four-point lead. Tagovailoa connected with Hill for a 47-yard passing play and connected with Hill again five plays later to score.

“As a defense you want to eliminate explosives which we didn’t do,” Chargers linebacker Eric Kendricks said. “Our offense played great, we obviously didn’t do enough on defense.”

The Chargers head out to battle the Tennessee Titans on September 17 at 10:00A.M.