Dolphins hold on to spoil Chargers’ LA debut, 19-17
CARSON, Calif. (AP) — The Miami Dolphins felt they had won one for hurricane-ravaged South Florida in their belated season opener.
Cody Parkey hit his fourth field goal from 54 yards with 1:05 to play, and the Dolphins rallied in the fourth quarter to spoil the Los Angeles Chargers’ home opener with a 19-17 victory Sunday.
Younghoe Koo missed a 44-yard field goal attempt with 5 seconds left after Philip Rivers maneuvered the Chargers (0-2) into scoring range in the final minute before a crowd of 25,381 in their first home game since relocating to the Los Angeles area after 56 seasons in San Diego.
Jay Cutler passed for 230 yards and Jay Ajayi rushed for 122 for the Dolphins, who spent the past nine days in California after leaving Miami early to avoid Hurricane Irma.
With “ONE FLORIDA” decals on their helmets and their hometown in their hearts, the Dolphins grinded through a tight game and then celebrated wildly when Koo pushed his kick barely right.
“I think adversity shows character, and here we are,” Miami defensive end Cameron Wake said. “It definitely has been a crazy past few days. Every so often, something happens that puts things in perspective. Football takes a back seat for a while, but once we weathered the storm and got out ... we were just trying to get back to normal.”
The Dolphins were well-rested after their home opener against Tampa Bay was postponed, leaving them to play their latest season opener since 1977. Parkey still did most of the Dolphins’ scoring, connecting from 30, 28 and 35 yards before burying his longest kick in the waning moments.
Kenny Stills caught a 29-yard TD pass in the third quarter from Cutler, who went 24 of 33 without an interception in his Dolphins debut.
“There’s definitely an edge to this team,” said Cutler, who came out of retirement to take over for injured Ryan Tannehill. “This team doesn’t get down. It just bounces right back.”
Rivers passed for 331 yards, and Antonio Gates set an NFL record with his 112th touchdown reception as a tight end, breaking his tie with Tony Gonzalez.
The dynamic duo couldn’t prevent the Chargers from taking yet another agonizing loss: They’ve dropped 11 games by eight points or fewer since the start of last season, three more than any other NFL team.
“I believe we will figure out how to win these close games,” said Anthony Lynn, whose first head coaching victory will have to wait at least another week.
Melvin Gordon scored the Chargers’ first touchdown in their new home from 1 yard in the second quarter.
Parkey’s 35-yard field goal trimmed Los Angeles’ lead to one point with 6:28 to play, and Miami’s defense held. The Dolphins got the ball back near midfield with 3:02 left and set up another big kick from Parkey, the Jupiter, Florida, native claimed off waivers two weeks ago.
Rivers and the Chargers moved 54 yards in 52 seconds to set up Koo, whose potential game-tying field goal was blocked in Denver last week.
The undrafted rookie kicker beat out maligned Josh Lambo for this job in the preseason, but he missed two more field goals against the Dolphins.
“Losing two tough ones down at the buzzer, we can be sick about it for a little while,” Rivers said. “But we’ve got a division opponent (Kansas City) coming in here that isn’t going to feel any sympathy. We’ve got to be ready to go.”
The Chargers’ latest last-minute loss dampened the festivities around a fresh start for the franchise, which brought five members of its inaugural 1960 Los Angeles Chargers to its temporary home at 27,000-seat StubHub Center, which was packed with a lively mix of both opponents’ fans — just like at most games in San Diego in recent years.
Dolphins: LB Lawrence Timmons was inactive after unexpectedly leaving the team during the weekend. He was expected to start this season for the Dolphins, who signed him to a $12 million deal after he spent the past 10 years with Pittsburgh.
Chargers: Starting CB Jason Verrett was unable to play because of pain in his surgically repaired knee.
Dolphins: After traveling home for a week of practice at their undamaged training complex in Davie, they’ll travel to New York to face the Jets.
Chargers: A three-game homestand continues with that visit from the Chiefs, who have beaten their AFC West rivals six straight times.