The Los Angeles Chargers entered their home opener on Sunday with a mission. That mission was to even their season record at 1, and kick off their ‘Fight for L.A.’ Based upon the outcome, they may have a longer and tougher ‘Fight’ than they had anticipated.
Miami kicker 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 on Sunday.
For the second week in a row, Chargers rookie kicker Younghoe Koo was unable to connect when the Bolts needed it most. Koo missed a 44-yard field goal attempt with 5 seconds left, after quarterback Philip Rivers maneuvered the Chargers into scoring range in the final minute. As a result, the Bolts suffered their second heartbreaking loss in as many weeks. To make matters worse, they did so before a home crowd of 25,381 at StubHub Center, in their first home game since relocating to the Los Angeles area, after 56 seasons in San Diego.
The Dolphins were well-rested after their home opener against Tampa Bay was postponed. They had spent the past nine days in California after leaving South Florida early to avoid Hurricane Irma. In his team debut, Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler managed an effective game plan and passed for 230 yards. Kenny Stills caught a 29-yard TD pass in the third quarter from Cutler, who went 24 of 33 without an interception. In addition, running back Jay Ajayi rushed for 122 for Miami. Parkey, who was claimed off waivers just two weeks ago, did most of their scoring. He had connected from 30, 28 and 35 yards before burying his longest kick in the game’s closing moments.
Parkey’s 35-yard field goal trimmed Los Angeles’ lead to one point with 6:28 to play, and Miami’s defense held the Chargers in check. The Dolphins got the ball back with 3:02 left, and Cutler got them into position for another big kick from Parkey, who drilled the 54-yarder.
For the Chargers, Rivers passed for 331 yards, and Antonio Gates set an NFL record with his 112th touchdown reception as a tight end. Gates broke his tie with Tony Gonzalez on an 8-yard throw from Rivers in the third quarter. Melvin Gordon scored the Chargers’ first touchdown in their new home from 1 yard in the second quarter to cap a 70-yard drive. However, both teams struggled to put together sustained scoring marches.
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 pushed this one right, and the Chargers had fallen to 0-2.
The Chargers’ latest last-minute loss dampened the festivities around a fresh start for the franchise. The Chargers organization had brought five members of its inaugural 1960 Los Angeles Chargers squad to StubHub Center for the festivities. The much maligned venue was packed to near capacity with a lively mix of both home team and opponents’ fans.
Gates Makes History
In the game’s third quarter, Rivers found Antonio Gates for a 7-yard touchdown, which made history. It was the 112th TD catch of Gates’ career and a new NFL record for touchdown catches by a tight end. Gates was at the bottom of a dog pile in the end zone in what was the loudest moment of the day from the crowd (25,381 total) at StubHub Center. The catch also put the Chargers back on top 17-10. Gates record-setting day cemented his legacy as one of the most-prolific tight ends in NFL history, and a true legend of the gridiron.
Gates also celebrated a second milestone on Sunday. In the first half, he hauled in his 900th reception. In doing so, he became the third tight end in NFL history to hit the mark.
Also, Philip Rivers surpassed Vinny Testaverde’s 46,233 yards passing for 11th place in league history during the second half of Sunday’s game.
Missing in Action:
Dolphins LB Lawrence Timmons was inactive after unexpectedly leaving the team at some point 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. Details on Timmons’ departure were few, but more is expected to be learned in the coming days.
For the Chargers, starting CB Jason Verrett was unable to play because of pain in his surgically repaired knee. His status for the Chargers in week three has yet to be disclosed.
Up Next for the Bolts:
The Chargers continue their three-game homestand with a visit from the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday September 24th. The Chiefs have looked impressive thus far, and will enter with a record of 2-0.
– Mike D’Abate is the Managingu Editor for cover32.com/Chargers and covers the Los Angeles Chargers.