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Week 4 Game Recap: Los Angeles Chargers 30, Miami Dolphins 10


What you need to know

Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers entered the game missing Justin Jackson, Mike Williams, Travis Benjamin, Hunter Henry, and Virgil Green due to injury. So a lot of players who don't normally get much playing time ended up playing critical roles. During the course of the game, they also lost two of those replacements, Dontrelle Inman and Sean Culkin, to injuries of their own. The Chargers don't have a bye until Week 12, so they will continue to lean on depth to fill out their starting lineup over the next several weeks. On the plus side, they did welcome back RB Melvin Gordon this week. He didn't see the field at all, but he should be moving into a somewhat regular role going forward.

Philip Rivers may have been missing several of his top weapons, but he didn't let it affect him. He was wildly efficient, completing 80% of his pass attempts for over ten yards per pass. He played a basically flawless game, showing that he is by far the most important player on the Charger offense.

Austin Ekeler has dominated the backfield touches to this point in the season, and with Justin Jackson missing this game with injury that trend continued this week. Troymaine Pope did see 12 touches to Ekeler's 23, but Ekeler was by far the more effective runner. With Melvin Gordon's holdout coming to an end this week, it will be interesting to see how the Chargers split the backfield touches the rest of the way.

Miami Dolphins

Despite the final score, there are still some positive things the Dolphins can take away from this game. They held their first lead of the season when they held the Chargers to a field goal on the first drive and then scored a touchdown on theirs, and the defense managed to keep the game tied until late in the 2nd quarter before giving up 20 unanswered points. Josh Rosen is looking like the better option at quarterback, but the offensive line continues to not be able to stop anyone. They gave up 5 sacks for a loss of 19 yards, and Rosen was under pressure all game. DeVante Parker made up for his dropped touchdown earlier in the year and Preston Williams continues to emerge as a quiet producer for this team. The rushing attack failed to produce more than 100 yards again this week and will continue to be one of the weakest points of this team. Miami will limp into their bye week at 0-4 before squaring off with an equally disappointing Washington team in week 6.

Los Angeles Chargers

QB Philip Rivers, 61 offensive snaps, Pass: 24 - 30 - 310 - 2 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 1 - 0 - 0
There are times when a stat line doesn't tell the whole story about a player's game, either for better or for worse. In this game, Rivers' stat line is exactly indicative of just how well he played. It started with his offensive line giving him a ton of time on nearly every single dropback, but Rivers himself made a lot happen. He completed 80% of his passes and averaged over 10 yards per attempt, while finding the end zone twice and never coming close to throwing an interception. It was, essentially, a perfect game. He was missing a bunch of weapons from the offensive skill spots, but didn't really miss a beat. Instead of focusing it on a handful of targets, he really spread the wealth around by completing passes to nine different players. He made a perfect pass in traffic early on to TE Lance Kendricks down the seam for 24 yards, demonstrating his precision. One aspect of his game that isn't seen much is his ability to buy time in the pocket. But he did exactly that on a rollout to his left, with defenders coming up in the pocket to defend him. But just at the last second, he flipped it back across his body to Troymaine Pope who took off for the end one untouched. Rivers' second touchdown of the half came late in the second quarter. He found Ekeler in the flat in stride, and Ekeler did the rest by shooting up the left sideline and into the end zone virtually untouched. In the second half, it was more of the same for Rivers. He spread the ball around, dropping it into tight spaces when needed and continuing to get loads of time to let plays develop and allow routes to be fully run. Rivers nearly added a third touchdown pass on a floater over the defense to TE Sean Culkin. But Culkin hurt his Achilles while leaping for the ball, and stumbled down before he could get the rest of the way into the end zone. About the only blemish on Rivers' afternoon was a fumbled snap that ended up getting recovered by the Chargers anyway.

RB Austin Ekeler, 48 offensive snaps, Rush: 18 - 60 - 1, Rec: 5 - 62 - 1 (5 targets)
Troymaine Pope was listed as the de facto starter, but it was Ekeler who got the first carry of the game. He had a tough time in the early going as the Dolphins did a nice job of cutting off the edge repeatedly, but Ekeler finally started to get things going late in the first half. As usual, he consistently fell forward on his rushing attempts, and he was busy in the passing game too. On one of those, he snagged a swing pass from Rivers and shot up the left sideline for the easy score. In the second half, a crossing route resulted in another big gain. The key was the play of the offensive line in giving Rivers time to wait for these plays to develop. The line also played a key role in Ekeler's second touchdown of the game. He took a handoff out of shotgun from Rivers and plunged in for the score, featuring some excellent line blocking up front. Ekeler is the only player who has carried the ball inside the 5-yard line for the Chargers this season, but that will likely change next week with the return of Melvin Gordon. The return of Gordon is likely to affect how many touches Ekeler sees in total, but he has been extremely impressive in his own right and has likely earned at least a decent share of the backfield work. He has proven adept at short yardage work as well as passing game work, and his strength is very underrated. On one play in particular, a swarm of Dolphins attempted a gang tackle and Ekeler still gained two yards on the play. A 2-yard run isn't impressive in and of itself, but it's the fact that it went for two positive yards rather than a loss of 3-4 yards that was the most impressive aspect. He almost never goes down on first contact or gets knocked backwards.

RB Troymaine Pope, 28 offensive snaps, Rush: 10 - 20 - 0, Rec: 2 - 14 - 1 (2 targets)
With Justin Jackson injured and inactive for this game and Melvin Gordon being held back for an "emergency situation" only, Pope was in line for a lot more work than usual. Pope was listed as the starting tailback, but he was clearly the second option behind Austin Ekeler in this game. He saw 12 touches in the game, but those touches didn't result in very much effectiveness. His first carry on the opening drive went for 8 yards, but that was by far his longest run of the game. His other nine rushing attempts totaled just 12 yards. He just didn't show that same burst or strength as Ekeler in this game (or Jackson in previous weeks). Pope was the beneficiary of being in the right place in the right time late in the first quarter, however. Rivers was buying time by rolling out to his left. And with the defense all jumping up to defend Rivers, it left Pope wide open a few yards away. Rivers flipped him the ball, Pope turned upfield, and outran the handful of defenders to go into the end zone untouched for the score.

RB Derek Watt, 19 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 21 - 0 (1 targets)
Watt's role is typically reduced to surprise short yardage specialist. But while he didn't see a handoff in this game, he did snag a checkdown pass in the flat with nothing but open space in front of him. He rumbled downfield for a big 21-yard gain and added 15 more yards after a personal foul penalty for the huge gain overall.

RB Melvin Gordon
Gordon's holdout ended this week when he reported to the team and was activated for this game, but with the Chargers building a big lead early on he never got any game action. His role is a bit unclear, but he should be in line to get work starting next week.

WR Keenan Allen, 56 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 48 - 0 (6 targets)
The Chargers were without a number of key contributors on offense coming into this game. That could have meant that the team would feed Allen more than usual. But it could also mean that the defense would key on him more than anyone else. This story line turned out to be the latter. Allen saw just six targets the entire game. Four different Chargers caught passes on the opening drive, but Allen didn't see a single one. His first touch was actually a handoff to the right side, so the team was at least trying to get him involved. He did manage to turn in some key receptions, including a huge third down conversion over the middle where he leapt high in the air to convert it. And another one picking up 20 yards on a 2nd and 21 in the second half where hf found a soft spot in the zone with four Miami defenders in the area. Allen nearly scored on a dumpoff in the flat, but two defenders managed to force him out at the 2-yard line before he could get in. Allen's biggest play of the game was one that didn't actually count. He snagged a wide open 69-yard touchdown reception up the right side, but part of the reason he was so wide open is because he was whistled for offensive pass interference on the play, negating the score. Replays show it may have been a bit of a dubious call, although there certainly was contact made on the play.

WR Dontrelle Inman, 50 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 76 - 0 (7 targets)
Inman was re-signed by the Chargers this summer precisely for games like this one. The team was without both Mike Williams and Travis Benjamin in the WR stable, as well as Hunter Henry and Virgil Green in the tight end group. And RB Melvin Gordon only recently ended his holdout and reported to the team, but he missed this game. Enter Inman, who is very familiar with the Chargers' offensive scheme and obviously has lots of rapport with Philip Rivers from Inman's previous stint as a San Diego Charger. Offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt mentioned that Inman would have a big role, and he didn't disappoint. He stepped into a starting role in this game and didn't miss a beat, leading the team in receiving yardage and targets while tying for the team lead in receptions. He made a quick snag over the middle for 16 yards on the opening drive. Inman was all over the field for the Chargers, and while it may be high praise he very much looked like Keenan Allen on several plays. He showed excellent body control on a third down conversion from the shadow of their own end zone, leaning into the defender to screen him out on a back shoulder fade. Another back shoulder catch on the sideline added a big gain later. He showed excellent timing with Rivers, running crisp routes, and demonstrating solid hands. Perhaps his best catch of the game was a tough grab in traffic with a defender hanging all over him (defensive pass interference was called, but the Chargers declined and took the play). But Inman came up limping after the play. He started to walk off, but then dropped to a knee and stayed on the ground. He came out of the game, and it was later reported as a quad injury.

WR Andre Patton, 24 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 22 - 0 (4 targets)
The recently-active Patton picked up a huge first down late in the first half with the Chargers driving downfield to take the lead following a missed field goal by Miami. He did see a handful of targets overall, but with so many key players missing, the Chargers really attacked this game with quantity over quality so no one player really dominated receptions.

WR Geremy Davis, 27 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 25 - 0 (2 targets)
With so many offensive players missing this game due to injury, Davis got more work than usual. He caught both of his targets, but the team really spread the wealth around amongst its depth. He went low to snag a crossing route on an early 6-yard reception, then made a longer catch downfield to get close to a first down.

TE Lance Kendricks, 38 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 37 - 0 (3 targets)
Kendricks looked solid early on, picking up a big chunk for 24 yards on the opening drive. He found space in the zone and got open down the seam, adding another catch later in the half by shielding the defender with his body to pick up a key third down conversion. As the game went along and more of the Chargers depth got involved, Kendricks was phased out a bit and the wealth was very much spread around.

TE Sean Culkin, 39 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 12 - 0 (1 targets)
With both Hunter Henry and Virgil Green inactive for the game due to injury, it was Culkin's best chance to get significant playing time. He didn't register a catch until late in the contest, and it turned out to be quite costly. He fell down while coming down with a reception inside the 5-yard line. He probably should have scored on the play, but he stumbled as he braced himself for the jump. Culkin did come down with the pass, tried to get up, and then quickly found himself on the ground again. He was removed from the game, and it was later reported that he will miss the rest of the season with a torn Achilles.


Miami Dolphins

QB Josh Rosen, 52 offensive snaps, Pass: 17 - 24 - 180 - 1 TD / 1 INT
Miami has continued its historically bad start to the season, but Rosen seems to be doing everything he can to turn that around. It would be considered a rocky start by just about any other quarterback in the league, but Rosen led Miami to one of its best games so far this season. He completed a long 34-yard touchdown to DeVante Parker on the outside. Parker ran a simple go route and beat the corner who tried to jump the route of the running back in the flat. It was an easy throw and catch as there was not a defender within 10 yards of Parker. Rosen also completed a 25-yard pass to Preston Williams that was tipped by one of their own players first to setup the touchdown play. Rosen tried to take a deep shot to Williams in the 4th quarter when they were playing catch up and had it intercepted. Rosen made a poor throw to Williams that would have carried him out of bounds and not been completed even if it had not been jumped underneath for the interception. Rosen was sacked 4 times for a loss of 18 yards and was not credited for a single running play this week. He will have his chance against a very porous Washington secondary in week 6.

RB Kenyan Drake, 28 offensive snaps, Rush: 9 - 44 - 0, Rec: 3 - 29 - 0 (5 targets)
It is going to be difficult for Drake to get anything going this year with Miami constantly playing from behind. He had 12 combined touches this week for 73 yards, but that is not enough volume to get anything going. Drake had 9 carries to 6 for Mark Walton and 2 for Kalen Ballage. Miami ran the ball 18 times total for just 72 yards and no one sticks out as the head of the back field. Drake has the job in title only but looks to be challenged by Walton this week. He had a nice 10-yard burst for his longest rush of the day, but Miami was not willing to commit to the run even when the game was close. Drake chipped in 3 catches on 5 targets this week and continues to show he is the most versatile back in the backfield. He snuck out into the flat and ran down the sideline for 19 yards on a 3rd down play, but it was not enough. Drake put the ball on the ground again this week but was fortunate to not lose the fumble. With his problems of holding on to the ball and Miami playing from behind, Drake may lose even more of his carries to Walton and Ballage.

RB Mark Walton, 13 offensive snaps, Rush: 6 - 23 - 0, Rec: 2 - 11 - 0 (2 targets)
It is safe to say the run game was not working for Miami again this week, but Walton had a surprising number of carries. He sat only 3 behind Drake and even saw a fair amount of play on traditional passing downs. Walton hauled in both of his targets and had the longest play on the ground for Miami with his 11-yard scamper. Walton has just 10 total carries through 4 games, but someone has to carry the ball for them. It will be interesting to see how much the team starts to move away from Drake in the coming weeks and if Walton is the next man up.

WR Preston Williams, 43 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 46 - 0 (7 targets)
Another week and another quietly productive day for Williams. He caught 4 of his 7 targets and was even given the chance on a trick play to throw the ball this week before being sacked for a loss of a yard. Williams got lucky on his 25-yard reception this week. There were multiple Miami receivers in the same area, and it was difficult to tell who the ball was intended for. The pass ended up being tipped by another receiver and fell into the lap of Williams who had fallen to the ground when he tried to change direction. It was his biggest play of the game and accounted for a little more than half of his total yardage this week. Williams is pushing Parker for top receiver on the team and has been one of the lone bright spots for this offense.

WR DeVante Parker, 43 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 70 - 1 (4 targets)
It has been a very up and down career for Parker in Miami and this week just happened to be one of those ups. Parker caught all 4 of his targets and just the second touchdown of the season for the Dolphins. After dropping what should have been an easy touchdown last week, Parker burned past his man this week for a 34-yard touchdown down the right sideline. The corner got caught trying to jump the underneath route by the running back and Parker had a clear path to the end zone without a defender within 10 yards of him. Parker outpaced Preston Williams in yards this week and was the best player on the team. Someone has to catch the ball when it isnít being thrown to the other team and it will be a toss up each week between Parker and Williams as to who sees the most volume.

WR Jakeem Grant, 22 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - -2 - 0, Rec: 1 - 6 - 0 (1 targets)
It has been a long season already for Grant in the offense. He continues to handle the kick and punt return duties, but they do not utilize his speed in the offense. He was targeted a single time and caught the ball for 6 yards. Grant was also given the ball on a jet sweep and was tackled in the back field for a loss of 2 yards. That is not enough touches for a player that can break a big play any time he touches the ball. Rosen does not have much time to throw the ball but could easily complete a quick slant or even screen to Grant and just see what he can make happen with his legs. This offense has no identity right now and Grant is no more than a glorified return man at the moment.

TE Mike Gesicki, 26 offensive snaps
Gesicki was blanked by the Chargers this week and he seems to have lost all value in the offense. The lone target that came his way bounced off of his hands and luckily fell to Preston Williams who was on the ground. Similar to Grant, Gesicki is not being featured in the offense as they struggle in every aspect right now. Gesicki is a big and athletic tight end that should be making plays all over the field but is seeing his talent wasted in Miami.