Tagovailoa, Hill star as Dolphins open season with ‘phenomenal’ victory

The Miami Dolphins started the season off on the right foot, winning a rollercoaster game, 36-34, over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday at SoFi Stadium.

Miami’s high-powered offense rose to the occasion, specifically quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who threw for 466 yards and three touchdowns. Two of those scoring passes went to wide receiver Tyreek Hill, who dominated with 11 catches and 215 yards.

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert also had a solid game, finishing with 228 passing yards and a touchdown. Los Angeles running back Austin Ekeler posted 164 total yards and a rushing touchdown.

But the game was defined by its thrilling finish, which saw Miami (1-0) drive 75 yards in 2:05 to take a fourth-quarter lead the Dolphins would not relinquish. It was capped by a Tagovailoa-to-Hill scoring connection on third-and-goal.

When asked about the drive, Tagovailoa praised his teammates’ sense of calm under pressure.

“I think our guys did a phenomenal job of not losing their composure in the heat of the moment,” he said. “I’m very proud of them, and how they went out there. They didn’t let anything hinder them.”

Tyreek Hill, beginning his second season with Miami, caught the game-winning touchdown on Sunday, sparking the Dolphins to a 36-34 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers with his four-yard scoring grab in the fourth quarter. (Photo courtesy of Miami Dolphins)

The Dolphins’ final drive included a 47-yard catch from Hill that eventually set the stage for his four-yard touchdown grab to will Miami over the finish line.

Hill’s dominant game caught the attention of many people, including his coach, Mike McDaniel.

“He’s a natural performer,” he said. “It would be very, very accurate to say we saw a better version of him today within the offense. I think that is a big part of his success.”

The Dolphins’ explosive plays were a huge difference-maker, and that was not lost on Chargers coach Brandon Staley.

“Give credit to Miami because they played a really good game, and made really big plays,” Staley said. “[Tua] was able to throw over and under, and those receivers had a heck of a day today. Tyreek was fantastic in the game today.”

Despite the Dolphins’ gaudy statistics, there were quite a few miscues throughout the win. While Miami was on its first drive, Tagovailoa and center Connor Williams made an errant exchange of the football on the snap, which led to a fumble being recovered by the Chargers (0-1) at their own six-yard-line.

There was another fumble that Miami was able to recover, but the difficulty of holding onto the football could prove to be a problem down the line.

McDaniel addressed the initial fumble, in his postgame press conference, labeling it a “key component.”

“We drove the ball down the field, and we had a fumbled exchange from center to quarterback,” he said. “That feeling is totally irrelevant to what happened on that drive. That was one play, and it can feel defeating. That’s a huge challenge in Week 1 to not overreact. I thought the sidelines had their mind right for what today was. That’s a key component in the National Football League when games are won and lost with leads or with deficits.”

Miami’s ability to remain focused – despite several lead changes and momentum shifts – is what eventually led the Dolphins to victory in a battle of AFC playoff teams from last season. And they’ll look to take that feeling into next week’s road game against the New England Patriots (0-1).

The Chargers, meanwhile, will head to Nashville to play the Tennessee Titans (0-1), having lost three in a row dating back to last season.

“We could have done more as an offense,” Herbert said. “It’s a part of football. We’ll take a look at the film and see what we did well.”

Anthony Milian is a junior at Florida International University majoring in Digital Broadcasting. He enjoys watching and analyzing sports, reading and learning more about sports history, and spending time with his family and friends