CARSON, Calif. — Hurricane Irma? Being displaced for nine days? A starting linebacker going AWOL before the game?
The Miami Dolphins overcame one of the strangest weeks in franchise history, capping it off Sunday with a 19-17 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers. Dolphins kicker Cody Parkey tied a career high with a winning, 54-yard field goal with 1:10 remaining. Miami claimed Parkey off waivers after the preseason.
Dolphins players rushed the field in jubilation after Chargers kicker Younghoe Koo missed a 44-yard attempt with five seconds left. The team was able to let out a collective sigh of relief during a stretch when Miami didn’t get any breaks on or off the field.
What it means: The Dolphins won their season opener for the first time under coach Adam Gase in thrilling fashion. Getting off to a fast start was something the team discussed since the spring, and picking up a win in its first game is a good step in that direction. There were plenty of excuses for the Dolphins to play flat. They were displaced on the West Coast for nine days, missed their true season opener last week due to the hurricane, and it’s always tough for East Coast teams to adjust to the time change on the West Coast.
What I liked: Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler was solid in his first start with Miami. Cutler, who joined the team six weeks ago after replacing injured starter Ryan Tannehill, completed 24 of 33 passes for 230 yards and one touchdown. But the biggest key is Cutler didn’t have any turnovers. The extra week of preparation certainly helped. His was accurate out of the gate as he completed nine of his first 10 passes in the first half. His best throw was a scramble to his right to elude the rush and then a strike to receiver Kenny Stills in stride for a 29-yard touchdown. Cutler also connected on a pair of 31-yard, jump-ball passes to receiver DeVante Parker in the second half that led to a pair of field goals.
What I didn’t like: The Dolphins’ defensive performance and playcalling were questionable. Miami first-year defensive coordinator Matt Burke too often left his linebackers and safeties exposed in passing situations. There also was one instance when Miami defensive end Cameron Wake was covering Chargers receiver Keenan Allen 10 yards down the field on a third-down play that Los Angeles converted, which simply should not happen. The Dolphins clearly have plenty to work on defensively after their first game
Fantasy fallout: Dolphins Pro Bowl running back Jay Ajayi lived up to his billing as a first- or second-round pick in most fantasy leagues. Ajayi rushed for 122 yards on 28 carries in the game. He had four 100-yard rushing games last year. Ajayi has been sharp in practices and the preseason since returning from a concussion early in training camp and it showed in this game.
Lawrence Timmons‘ replacement: The Dolphins had to make a last-minute decision to replace Timmons with backup outside linebacker Chase Allen, who finished with four tackles in the game. Timmons was ruled inactive after going AWOL from the Dolphins on Saturday. It remains unclear why Timmons left the team. Allen got off to a fast start with a tackle for loss on Chargers Pro Bowl running back Melvin Gordon. Allen played mostly on two downs and was taken out during nickel and obvious passing situations.
What’s next: Miami will stay on the road in Week 2 with its first AFC East game against the New York Jets. The Dolphins swept the Jets (0-2) last year and likely must do the same in order to be in playoff contention late in the season. Miami also will play 16 straight games without a bye due to last week’s weather cancellation.