INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Tyreek Hill scored two of the most memorable touchdowns of the Miami Dolphins' season on Sunday night.
And almost nothing else will be worth revisiting about their 23-17 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers — or about this two-game disaster of a California road trip — when the shaken Dolphins (8-5) finally get back to work at home.
Hill returned a fumble 57 yards for a wacky touchdown in the second quarter, finding the ball in the back of a big scrum and taking it to the house with his peerless speed to end the Dolphins' fourth offensive series. The score trimmed the Chargers' lead to 10-7 even though Miami had managed zero net yards on its first three drives.
"That was a big play that I was hoping would get us out of our funk, and it didn't really do that as much as I'd hoped," Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said.
Hill then caught a 60-yard touchdown pass down the Miami sideline in the second half on a beautiful throw from Tua Tagovailoa, again pulling the Dolphins within three points of LA at 17-14. Hill even became the Dolphins’ single-season leader in yards receiving with that big catch, no small feat on a franchise with Miami's storied history.
"It was a great opportunity that we got the matchup we wanted with Tyreek being 1-on-1," Tagovailoa said. "It gave him an opportunity. He made the best out of it."
But those points were the Dolphins' only touchdowns, and they weren't enough to steal a win. Miami stumbled home to evaluate this discouraging defeat during a short week of preparation for a trip Saturday night to Buffalo, where the Dolphins will attempt to avoid their second three-game losing streak of the season.
Hill's explosive plays kept the Dolphins in a game that had no business being close, given Tagovailoa's dismal performance and the Chargers' clear edges in most areas of play. Miami’s offense produced no other highlights while the Dolphins managed only 219 total yards, and Tagovailoa had just 145 yards passing in an ugly 10-for-28 outing.
"We've seen consistent glimpses of our offense executing and doing well," Tagovailoa said. "So to have gone out this weekend and played the way that we played, especially on my part, that's unacceptable."
Aside from his TD catch, which happened partly because Chargers defensive back Michael Davis fell down on the play, Hill's other three receptions — on a whopping 10 targets — went for a combined 21 yards. Some of those targets were uncatchable balls from Tagovailoa, whose accuracy was alarmingly poor.
Jaylen Waddle made only two catches, none until the fourth quarter. The ground game produced 92 yards, but Jeff Wilson Jr. injured his ankle in the second quarter, further complicating the establishment of any rhythm.
"All in all, we were out of whack, out of rhythm," Tagovailoa said. "We're trying to find it. We felt like we had some momentum, and then something happens, whether it's a penalty or we get stopped on a play. We'll just have to get better."
After their 33-17 loss to the Super Bowl-contending 49ers last weekend, the Dolphins traveled to Los Angeles and spent the week practicing at UCLA rather than adding two more cross-country flights to their agenda. The travel hack didn’t pay off, and the Dolphins even stumbled through long stretches of this game in the step-slow haze that's all too familiar to fans of visiting professional teams that get an extra night off in Hollywood or Miami Beach.
The drop-off was particularly stark because the Dolphins were averaging 394 yards in their last six games coming in — the fourth-best total in the league since Tagovailoa returned from injury for Week 7. Tagovailoa was the NFL's top-rated quarterback coming into Inglewood, but he realized he looked mostly terrible against the Bolts.
Tagovailoa tied the worst performances by any offense in the NFL this season with three completions in the first half and four completions over the first three quarters. McDaniel repeatedly declined to call out Tagovailoa for a poor game afterward, saying the quarterback shared responsibility with his receivers and the offensive line for Miami's ineptitude.
"The bottom line is, who cares whose fault it is?" McDaniel said. "I thought overall, with the way everyone was playing, for us to win the game, (Tagovailoa) would probably have to do something great. But collectively, quarterbacks are only as good as the offense, and together we just weren't good enough."