Dave Hyde: Top 10 takeaways from Dolphins’ thrilling comeback against Chargers

It was a long, long wait for the Miami Dolphins’ opener. And Sunday’ game was worth that wait.

On a day of weak games across the league, the Dolphins’ 36-34 win against the Los Angeles Chargers was the most entertaining game of them all. And the Dolphins got just what they wanted out of the opener.

Here are 10 thoughts on the win:

1. Player of the Day: Tua Tagovailoa. Who else? It wasn’t just the numbers — 28-of-45 passing for 466 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. It was the constant big passes he hit, right to the perfect touch pass for the 4-yard touchdown to Tyreek Hill for the winning points. It also was the nine months of what had to be a tough off-season for him. I wrote a full column on his game here.

2. Quote of the day: “I felt like nobody can guard me,’’ Tyreek Hill said after catching 11 passes for 214 yards and two touchdowns. I’m fascinated by how Tyreek Hill gets two- and three-yards open considering it’s no secret about him being one of the NFL’s two or three top weapons. There it was again on Sunday. The Dolphins get the ball at the Chargers 35 and on the first play Hill runs open deep by two yards. Touchdown. On the game-winning pass, Tua put it perfectly over the shoulder of Chargers cornerback Michael Davis and Hill picked it perfectly as well for the game-winning points. He’s right. Nobody can guard him.

3. Did Joey Bosa play? The stat sheet said he had one tackle. Kahlil Mack? Two tackles. So, while passing out game balls, make sure to give one the entire offensive line starting with tackles Kendall Lamm and Austin Jackson. They had the microscope put on them, as did general manager Chris Grier. These were his calls. Lamm was the sub for the injured Terron Armstead. Jackson was back for Year 4 after three uncertain seasons. Tagovailoa wasn’t sacked and the stat sheet says defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day had the only two quarterback hits. That was the starting point of Tagovailoa’s big day. He was barely touched — and he threw 45 passes! He didn’t have to consider getting pressured, meaning he was comfortable in the pocket and able to play his game.

4. Stat of the Day: 969 total yards offense between the two teams. Sixty first downs (30 by each team). Seventy points. Seven lead changes. It was a quite a day for both offenses. These could go down as season-high stats for a game this year. This was the fun game of the opening Sunday to watch.

5. What-Was-He-Thinking Player of the Day: Chargers cornerback J.C. Jackson. He won this just by his completely unnecessary pass-interference penalty on what would have been the final play of the first half and instead gave the Dolphins a field goal (and the winning margin?). Throw in the decision to run the ball out of the end zone after his end-zone interception in the third quarter. He was tackled at the 4-yard line, the Chargers didn’t move and a weak punt meant the Dolphins got the ball at the Chargers’ 35. One cross-the-T’s play later — Tua to Tyreek — and the Dolphins had a 24-17 lead.

6. Let’s relax on the Vic Fangio front. Winning lets that thought take hold. OK, the Dolphins defense got run over by the Chargers offense — physically run over as the Chargers had 40 carries for 234 yards. The Dolphins were the fourth-best rushing defense last year with the same cast, too. I spelled out before this game the question was how long it would take to acclimate to Fangio’s way. His past three stops at Chicago, San Francisco and Denver had top-10 defenses. Sunday was a long way from that. But let’s be clear, too. The Dolphins defense did on the final series what the Chargers couldn’t. They put up a pass rush that sacked Justin Herbert twice and caused another grounding penalty. Fangio hadn’t blitzed all day and it surprised the Chargers. That end of the game was the only part this defense got right.

7. Mike McDaniel surely was sick and tired of hearing how a dum-dum like Brandon Staley out-coached him last December. The Dolphins offense had no problem getting receivers off the line or running open over the middle like last year. How? Sometimes it was as easy as putting Hill or Jaylen Waddle in a half-second of motion right before the snap to have him elude any press coverage with speed. With all the motion and different alignments, everyone was open Sunday. Hill had 15 targets, Durham Smythe had seven and Waddle, River Cracraft and Braxton Berrios had five targets. McDaniel said it wasn’t right to the players to talk about strategy before this game. But that was part of the story last meeting. It was this one, too. The coach’s role is to put players in position to win and McDaniel did Sunday. That said …

8. Jonathan Taylor Trade Watch: Interest went up a notch. The Dolphins had 45 passes against 20 runs. It’s all good and well because they won. It made sense this Sunday, too, because the Chargers couldn’t stop it. But you could also say the Dolphins not running the ball left time on the clock for the Chargers to get a field goal just before half. The Dolphins had 20 carries for 70 yards, but even that’s overstated. Running backs Raheem Mostert (10-37) and Salvon Ahmed (3-11) had just 13 carries. That’s not much. One Sunday where the passing game is on fire doesn’t say they won’t run. But it was shades of ranking 31st in rushes last year.

9. Quick Sunday Hits:

A. You thought the Dolphins threw a lot? Mac Jones threw 54 times (completing 35 for 316 yards and three touchdowns) in the New England Patriots’ close-but-not-good-enough loss to Philadelphia, 25-20.

B. Don’t read too much into some openers: Joe Burrow had six first downs and 142 yards passing in losing to Cleveland.

C. Atlanta rookie Bijan Robinson is already the best back in the league.

D. Good for him: Ex-Dolphin Noah Igbinoghene scoring a touchdown off a field-goal block. It also filled out my Sunday Bingo card.

E. “We got our teeth kicked in,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said after a 30-7 loss to San Francisco.

10. Next week: Dolphins at Patriots. New England is the worst team in the AFC East, but they’re still a tough out as their opener showed. Philadelphia won on the margins — a tipped interception returned 70 yards for a TD and a 10-0 lead. The Patriots defense is tough, but their offense should let the Dolphins defense take a step forward.