The Lightning Rod: Chargers-Dolphins previewcsudhbulletin November 15, 2020 0 COMMENTS
Bolts fans will be hoping the team can return to winning ways this week as the team travels to Miami. Photo by Glenn Marshall.
By Jeremy Gonzalez, Sports Editor
Los Angeles Chargers vs. Miami Dolphins. CBS. 1:05 p.m.
Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Fla.
Chargers record: 2-6, 4th in AFC West. NFL Week 10 Power Ranking: 18
Los Angeles lost in heartbreaking fashion once again, this time to division rival Las Vegas Raiders after a video review overturned a Chargers touchdown on the final play that would’ve given them a victory.
Dolphins record: 5-3, 2nd in AFC East. NFL Week 10 Power Ranking: 12
Rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who has taken over the starting job, shined in his second start, throwing for 248 yards and two touchdowns, rushing for 35 yards and had no turnovers in a 34-31 victory over the high-flying Arizona Cardinals.
Miami had a chance to select Justin Herbert in the 2020 NFL Draft with the fifth overall pick but instead opted to take a chance on Tua Tagovailoa, who had been nursing a serious hip injury that he suffered in his final season at Alabama.
Early this season many had wondered why the Dolphins didn’t take Herbert, especially with the health concerns that surrounded Tagovailoa and Herbert’s instant impact on Los Angeles when he took over the starting job.
Tagovailoa is now starting to show why he was selected one pick ahead of Herbert.
His breakout performance last week in a thrilling win at Arizona showed the potential he has to shine in the NFL. His play against the Cardinals added momentum to the surprising Dolphins surge. They’re sitting at 5-3 and take a four-game winning streak into Sunday’s game against Herbert and the helpless Chargers.
Herbert went one pick after Tagovailoa, going sixth overall to the Chargers. Add in the number one overall pick, Joe Burrow, and suddenly the 2020 QB draft class looks to be very promising for the future of the league.
Here’s a breakdown of the rookie quarterbacks in greater detail, along with some other factors to watch out for in Sunday’s Week 10 showdown between the Bolts and Fins:
IN THE POCKET
The matchup between the Chargers’ Herbert and the Dolphins’ Tagovailoa is just the seventh in the NFL since 1967 involving two rookie starting quarterbacks who were taken in the top six picks of the draft.
The Chargers are 2-6, with the six games being lost by a combined 24 points, but Herbert has been terrific since being named the starter in Week 2. The former Oregon star’s 2,146 passing yards are the second-highest total in NFL history for a player’s first seven games.
Tagovailoa didn’t break into the starting role until Week 8. But as a starter, he’s now 2-0, with the former Alabama sensation still showing that he has a knack for winning.
Los Angeles’ Herbert has thrown for 10 touchdowns and just three picks in three road games this season. He’s also thrown multiple touchdown passes and for over 250 yards in his past five games.
“It’s not a competition between me and Justin,” Tagovailoa said. “It’s a competition for myself to go out and see what I can do to help our team be successful against their defense. And I’m pretty sure it’s the same for Justin as well.”
Tagovailoa has completed 65% of his passes, has tossed three touchdowns, has a passer rating of 103.8 and has yet to throw an interception in his first two games. Last week he showed he can use his legs to extend drives as he rushed seven times for 35 yards. He will look to continue playing well for the Fins as they try to reach their first playoff berth since 2016.
“He’s had so much success over the past couple of years,” Herbert said. “It has been great to watch him and all the things he’s done. So really looking forward to playing against him.”
In a battle of two sensational rookie quarterbacks, this game can present a glimpse of the league’s future. Both QBs are primed to shine on Sunday afternoon. You won’t want to miss this one, unless your favorite team is playing at the same time slot or if your local CBS channel is airing another game.
HOLDING THE LEAD
Stop me if you’ve heard the next phrase; the Chargers cannot hold a lead to close out a game. The team has led at halftime in six of their eight games, including last week’s loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. Five defeats have come down to the final play.
“I don’t want to find out how many more gut punches we can take,” coach Anthony Lynn said after last week’s game. “I mean, right now, we’ve been kicked in the guts six times. That’s six times too many for me.”
In the past two years, the Chargers are 3-15 in games decided by a touchdown or less. Los Angeles is hoping to break out of that slump this week against the Dolphins.
REVOLVING RUNNING BACKS
Despite the injuries that have plagued the team, the Chargers’ running game has managed to be productive. They are averaging 146 yards over the past five games, which is fifth in the league in that span.
The ground game has gotten back on track despite being without Austin Ekeler, who is sidelined with a hamstring injury. Joshua Kelley is sixth among rookie running backs with 433 yards from scrimmage.
Kalen Ballage, who was with the Dolphins in 2018-19, saw his first extensive action for Los Angeles and gained 66 yards on nine carries. He could have a bigger role for the Bolts this week as he faces his former team.
Troymaine Pope could also return for the Chargers this week and the team could have a running back by committee, possibly riding the hot hand of the running back that established himself in the first quarter.
Opening: Miami is listed as the favorite. Line: -3.0. Total: 49.5.
Saturday night: Miami is listed as the favorite. Line: -2.0. Total: 48.0.
The Lightning Rod pick: This looks to be one of the more intriguing matchups on the Chargers 2020 schedule, mainly because two high draft picks can go head-to-head in the game. Herbert and Tagovailoa have both been playing well and I expect that to continue this week. The Chargers running game gets going early and has their best game of the season, with the running backs accounting for over 170 yards from scrimmage, but it will not be enough as Herbert tosses two interceptions, including a game-sealing pick that kills a Chargers comeback effort.
Dolphins 31, Chargers 30.
The Lightning Rod 2020 record: 4-2