It was a night of frustration in prime time for the Miami Dolphins.
Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert played like he was in a different weight class than the Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailoa. Los Angeles dominated in virtually every statistical category as the Chargers defeated the Dolphins, 23-17 on Sunday night at SoFi Stadium.
Miami (8-5) loses back-to-back games on the West Coast after also falling to the San Francisco 49ers last week. The Dolphins remain in the No. 6 slot in the AFC, but their lead in the standings for a wild-card spot is down to one game.
Los Angeles (7-6) has gotten back into the playoff picture at No. 7 with the win and New York Jets’ loss earlier Sunday to the Buffalo Bills.
Herbert made all the throws, whether it was a deep ball to big target Mike Williams across his body, a perfectly placed pass to the back of the end zone or any of a number of smart checkdowns to running back Austin Ekeler. He threw for 367 yards and a touchdown on 39-of-51 passing.
Tagovailoa, never in a rhythm, was 10 of 28 for 145 yards and a touchdown.
The Chargers outgained the Dolphins, 432-219. They won time of possession, 39:38-20:22. They went 9 of 18 on third downs while Miami was 3 for 11.
Williams had six receptions for 116 yards and a touchdown. Keenan Allen went for 12 catches and 92 yards. Ekeler had 59 yards receiving, plus 45 on the ground and a rushing score.
Trailing 23-14, Dolphins kicker Jason Sanders made it a one-possession game with a 55-yard field goal with 1:10 remaining, but Miami could not recover the ensuing onside kick to stay alive.
The Chargers built a 10-point lead before halftime thanks to a questionable defensive play call on third-and-goal from the 17-yard line. The Dolphins put eight defenders at or near the goal line in a prevent look, which allowed a screen pass to Ekeler to gain 16. He ran it in from a yard out on the next play.
Miami got back to within 3 when star wide receiver Tyreek Hill burned Chargers cornerback Michael Davis, who fell in coverage, for a 60-yard touchdown. Hill finished with four receptions, 81 yards, a receiving touchdown, plus a first-half touchdown scored by picking up a fumble on offense.
A pair of later field-goal drives and a series of defensive stops secured the victory for Los Angeles in the second half.
As so much was going wrong for the Dolphins in the first half, Hill, on the night he broke the franchise record for receiving yards in a season, electrified with a touchdown that didn’t come through the air.
The speedster recovered a fumble by teammate and running back Jeff Wilson Jr. and, with most of the 22 players on the field focused on a pile that had developed, Hill was able to scamper around the crowd and blaze 57 yards into the end zone.
The Chargers, after forcing a quick three-and-out to kick off Sunday’s action, came up empty on their opening drive that consumed 8:36 when cornerback Kader Kohou came up with a big stop in the flat two yards shy of the goal line on a fourth-down play. It set the tone for the night that they would dominate time of possession.
Los Angeles, driving into Miami territory again on its second series, settled for a field goal early in the second quarter after a first-quarter sack from Christian Wilkins put the Chargers into third-and-long.
Hill’s offensive fumble return touchdown came after three frustrating drives where Miami could only muster 5 yards. Meanwhile, Los Angeles had its original 10-0 advantage with an impressive Herbert throw to Williams in the back of the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown. The Dolphins were outgained, 249-55, in the first half.
Hill broke the Dolphins’ single-season receiving yards record with his first catch Sunday, a 13-yard reception in the first quarter. He needed 11 yards against the Chargers to pass Mark Clayton and his 1,389-yard mark established in 1984.
Wilkins, Jerome Baker, Jaelan Phillips and Eric Rowe each had a sack. Phillips had another one that was called off due to a roughing-the-passer call that was questionable, to say the least.
Wilson left Sunday’s game with a hip injury in the first half and didn’t return. Hill was announced as having an ankle ailment but quickly returned to action. Row sustained a hamstring injury.
The Dolphins have a quick turnaround from travel back to South Florida that will get them home early Monday morning. They play against the division-leading Bills (10-3) in Buffalo on Saturday night.