Patriots

AFC EAST: Dolphins hold on to spoil Chargers' LA debut, 19-17

dolphins_chargers_091717.jpg

AFC EAST: Dolphins hold on to spoil Chargers' LA debut, 19-17

CARSON, Calif. - Cody Parkey hit his fourth field goal from 54 yards with 1:05 to play, and the Miami 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 in the delayed season opener for the Dolphins, who spent the past nine days in California after leaving South Florida early to avoid Hurricane Irma. Parkey did most of their scoring, connecting from 30, 28 and 35 yards before burying his longest kick in the waning moments.

Rivers passed for 331 yards, and Antonio Gates set an NFL record with his 112th touchdown reception as a tight end.

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 barely right.

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.

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 with 3:02 left, and Cutler got them into position for another big kick from Parkey, the Jupiter, Florida, native claimed off waivers two weeks ago.

The Dolphins were well-rested after their home opener against Tampa Bay was postponed, leaving them to play their latest season opener since 1977.

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.

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, but both teams struggled to put together sustained scoring marches.

Five quick thoughts: Dolphins bring the heat to Brady, Patriots

cp-patriots-dolphins-brady-chase-allen-121117.jpg

Five quick thoughts: Dolphins bring the heat to Brady, Patriots

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Here are five quick-hitting thoughts from what transpired between the Patriots and Dolphins on Monday night . . . 

1) Might Tom Brady's slow start be attributable to what happened two weeks ago at Gillette Stadium? The Patriots quarterback was hit eight times that day, and he seemed jumpy from the start Monday night at Hard Rock Stadium. The Patriots went three-and-out on their first two drives of the game, and they gained two yards total in the first quarter. Brady was pressured when Lawrence Timmons came in unblocked on the second Patriots play of the game, but he underthrew Brandin Cooks for an interception when he had plenty of time in the pocket. (Brady was picked again by Howard on a slightly underthrown pass to Cooks early in the third quarter. Again, he had plenty of time.) He also missed James White on a relatively easy throw when he really wasn't pressured. Perhaps he sensed Ndamukong Suh coming, but he had time to get off a good throw without being contacted. That kind of misfire could be due in part to what happened when Suh and his teammates were all over Brady in Foxboro late last month. 

2) The Patriots might've regretted not getting Dion Lewis more involved early on. The hottest Patriots back went without a touch from scrimmage in the first quarter. When the team took over possession early in the second, Lewis saw the football on the first two plays of the series and picked up 18 yards. His one-handed catch -- on a tremendous throw from Brady as he was being hit by Kiko Alonso -- later in the second quarter went for 20 yards and helped set up the Patriots for their lone touchdown of the half. 

3) Can't blame the Dolphins for their approach in the passing game through the first two quarters: Find mismatches and take advantage. They were able to do just that by targeting Elandon Roberts in coverage on rookie running back Kenyan Drake. That matchup produced a 13-yard gain in the first quarter. In the second, Drake beat Roberts down the sideline for a 47-yard gain. Roberts also seemed to be the closest defender in coverage on Anthony Fasano when the Dolphins tight end reeled in a 17-yard gain during the same second-quarter drive. Five plays after the long Drake completion, the Dolphins scored on a quick-hitting throw to Jarvis Landry to take a 13-7 lead. 

4) The Dolphins utilized another smart tactic throughout the game, deploying bunch and stack formations for the Patriots to try to cover. Jarvis Landry's third-quarter touchdown came with the Dolphins going to a bunch formation near the goal line. With the Patriots in a true zone, and without a defender "buying" Landry off the snap, he found a soft spot and sat down in it for six. The Patriots had done a fine job of defending bunch sets through the first month of the season -- though they weren't tested nearly as often as expected -- but Monday night seemed to be a step back in that regard. 

5) Late in the third quarter, Patriots safety Duron Harmon laid into his defensive teammates on the sidelines with Matt Patricia standing by. Harmon has been dubbed "The Voice" by teammates this season for his increased role as one of the go-to players to shoulder media responsibilities. He was outspoken when the defense struggled in September, and he clearly wasn't afraid to let his opinions known as the Patriots were plagued by broken coverages and missed tackles in Miami.