CARSON, Calif. — The Miami Dolphins packed their bags and boarded their buses at this converted soccer stadium with a visible excitement. After spending an uneasy week in California while a hurricane ravaged their city and postponed their opener, the Fins were finally headed home.
And they’re coming back with a gutsy victory.
“I think it’s huge for us to come out here through all the adversity that we had to go through the past couple of weeks and just put out a performance,” said Jay Ajayi, who rushed for 122 yards. “It shows how resilient our team is.”
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. The Chargers got a familiar result in a new city, disappointing their portion of the crowd of 25,381 in their first home game since relocating to the Los Angeles area after 56 seasons in San Diego.
With two last-minute defeats to start their relocation year, the Chargers have dropped 11 games by eight points or fewer since the start of last season — three more than any other NFL team.
“The last two weeks kind of seem hard to believe after last year,” defensive end Joey Bosa said. “I didn’t think it would be happening like this still.”
With “ONE FLORIDA” decals on their helmets and their hometown in their hearts, the Dolphins had earned the right to celebrate 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.”
Jay Cutler passed for 230 yards in his debut for the Dolphins, who made their long stay on the California coast to avoid Hurricane Irma. Kenny Stills caught a 29-yard TD pass in the third quarter from Cutler, who went 24 of 33 without an interception.
JUST FOR KICKS
The Dolphins were well-rested after their home opener against Tampa Bay was postponed. Parkey still did most of Miami’s scoring, connecting from 30, 28 and 35 yards before the big one.
“I’ve hit game-winners, and I’ve missed game-winners,” said Parkey, the Jupiter, Florida, native claimed off waivers two weeks ago. “I want to go ahead and say that Koo is a phenomenal kicker. He should just keep swinging.”
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 veteran playmakers couldn’t prevent the Chargers from taking yet another agonizing loss. Neither could Melvin Gordon, who scored the Chargers’ first touchdown in their new home from 1 yard in the second quarter, but managed just 13 yards rushing.
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.
“I just pushed it right,” Koo said. “It was a great snap, great hold. It’s definitely frustrating. I can’t say it’s not.”
The familiar unpleasantness of a last-second loss dampened the festivities around a fresh start for the Chargers, who brought five members of their inaugural 1960 Los Angeles Chargers to their temporary home at 27,000-seat StubHub Center. The converted soccer stadium was packed with a lively mix of both opponents’ fans — just like at most games in San Diego in recent years.
“We had a warm atmosphere,” Chargers pass-rusher Melvin Ingram said. “I definitely loved it, but we have to get a win for StubHub.”
NO TIMMONS, NO NEWS
Lawrence Timmons was inactive after unexpectedly leaving the team during the weekend, and coach Adam Gase divulged few postgame details. Timmons 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. Undrafted free agent rookie Chase Allen got the start.