Photo courtesy of Miami Dolphins
Jay Cutler’s season as the starting quarterback of the Miami Dolphins likely won’t be remembered with any great fondness. That era, however, did get off to a solid start.
On this day five years ago, Cutler engineered a game-winning drive. Cody Parkey’s late 54-yard field goal was the difference as the Dolphins topped the Los Angeles Chargers, 19-17.
Setting the Stage
Hurricane Irma had forced the Dolphins to postpone their season opener. So instead, that took place a week later at StubHub Center in Los Angeles on Sept. 17, 2017.
The Dolphins were coming off a surprising 10-6 season that culminated in their first playoff berth since 2008. In the offseason, however, Miami lost starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill to a knee injury. In hopes of mitigating the loss, Miami signed the free agent Cutler.
The Chargers were coming off a 5-11 season but were expected to be better. Los Angeles opened the year with a 24-21 loss to the Denver Broncos.
Parkey Makes, Koo Misses
Kicker Cody Parkey had been 3-for-3 on field goals but needed one more for Miami to rally. Down 17-16 with three minutes to go, a nice punt return by Jakeem Grant started Miami near midfield.
On the critical drive, the Dolphins kept the ball in the hands of running back Jay Ajayi. After carrying for 10 yards and a first down, Ajayi’s next two rushes totaled just three yards. On third down, he added a catch for just a yard.
Facing 4th-and-6 from the Chargers’ 37-yard-line, head coach Adam Gase elected to try the long field goal. It was the right decision.
After making kicks from 30, 28 and 35 yards, Parkey’s 54-yard attempt split the uprights and gave the Dolphins a 19-17 lead with 1:05 left but there was still time.
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers opened the ensuing drive with three completions for first downs before a penalty and a 9-yard completion put Los Angeles at the Miami 26-yard-line. With just nine seconds left, Younghoe Koo came on to attempt the winning field goal. Koo’s kick sailed wide right and Miami prevailed.
The Dolphins scored the final nine points in the win. Cutler passed for 230 yards and a touchdown to Kenny Stills in his Miami debut. Ajayi led all rushers with 122 yards.
Rivers finished with 331 yards and a touchdown pass to Antonio Gates in the loss. Los Angeles’ Keenan Allen led all receivers with nine catches and 100 yards. Melvin Gordon scored the game’s only rushing touchdown. Neither team committed a turnover.
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Despite the 0-2 start, the Chargers would turn things around and have a winning season. 3-6 at one point in the season, Los Angeles won six of its last seven games to finish 9-7.
For Miami, the trend was reversed. Following a 4-2 start, the Dolphins dropped eight of their last 10 to finish with a record of 6-10. Both teams missed the playoffs.
Either way, the Week 2 contest served as the closest win of the season for the Dolphins and tied for the Chargers’ closest loss. It came on this day five years ago.