Chargers to make LA debut against Dolphins
The Los Angeles Chargers prepare to face the Miami Dolphins, a team that has been in L.A. more than the home team this week.
The Chargers are seeking their first win after dropping their opener at the Denver Broncos on Monday night. While the Chargers were losing yet another AFC West game, the Dolphins already had their feet up in southern California after heading west early.
Miami sought refuge from ravages of Hurricane Irma. The Dolphins’ season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was postponed Sunday, so it will be an eager club at the ready for the Chargers in their first home opener in L.A. since 1960.
The Chargers, on a short week after playing the back end of a Monday Night Football doubleheader, don’t have time to lick their mile-high wounds after absorbing a heartbreaking 27-24 loss.
“Well, you know, it hurts, but we do not have the 24-hour rule anymore because we (had) to go back to work here on Wednesday,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. “The Dolphins are in town waiting for us and they don’t care about this game or how we feel.”
The Chargers possess a familiar feeling, one that haunted them through a five-win season last year. No matter where they call home — the Chargers were in San Diego for 56 years — the team still can’t win close games.
Not the first one, anyway, as Younghoe Koo’s game-tying, 44-yard field goal was blocked as time ran out on L.A. in Denver.
Among Lynn’s first tasks is to make sure the loss to the Broncos doesn’t leak into the team’s buildup in facing the Dolphins. Miami will not only be fresh, but it will offer a balanced offensive attack led by new quarterback Jay Cutler and bruising running back Jay Ajayi.
The Chargers will have plenty of challenges when the Dolphins exit their locker room for the StubHub Center field. But Philip Rivers is confident the Chargers won’t have the “here-we-go-again” attitude after losing another tight game.
The Chargers lost eight games by seven points or fewer last year, one of them to the Dolphins.
“You won’t have a problem with guys’ attitude or guys moping around,” Rivers stressed. “Fifteen teams are 0-1 and fifteen teams are 1-0 and two didn’t play. We got a lot of football left. I think our fight and the way the defense stepped up.”
The Chargers took a step backward when facing the Dolphins last year, losing 31-24 at Qualcomm Stadium. The year before that, the Chargers prevailed in their last home game of 2015, one that they thought would be their last in San Diego.
But the Chargers stuck around San Diego another year and got stuck in the ribs by Miami last season with Ryan Tannehill throwing for two touchdowns and 240 yards.
In typical Chargers fashion, they squandered a late lead. With about a minute left, Kiki Alonzo collected Rivers’ fourth interception of the game and returned it 60 yards for the winning score.
Among the story lines is how Cutler folds back into the NFL regimen. Cutler, who played for Dolphins coach Adam Gase in Chicago when Gase was his offensive coordinator, was set to being his NFL broadcasting career.
Cutler was lured out of retirement — thanks to a one-year, $10 million deal — when Tannehill went down with a knee injury this summer.
Dirk Koetter, Cutler’s latest offensive coordinator, isn’t shy about stating Cutler’s attributes.
“He’s a strong-armed, quick-release guy, stand in the pocket (passer),” Koetter told the Tampa Bay Times. “He’s been a little streaky in his career, and when he’s hot, he’s red-hot. I’ve seen him light teams up.
“He’s Joe Namath to us. He’s the greatest quarterback, whoever your greatest quarterback is, because he’s the one we’re playing this week.”
Hopefully for the Dolphins, he resembles the Broadway Joe who led the Jets to an upset win over the Colts in the Super Bowl and not the one finishing his career with the Rams with creaky knees.
What Cutler has going for him, other than his rocket arm, is a reliable running game. Ajayi excels in the team’s zone-based ground game, rushing for 1,272 yards and eight touchdowns last year.
The Chargers in unveiling their new 3-4 alignment got pushed around at times by the Broncos. L.A. surrendered 140 rushing yards and that’s a weakness in which the Dolphins will likely try to exploit in setting up the play action for Cutler.
The front line of the Chargers, which features one starter in his same spot from last year’s opening day, will have its hands full with defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. But it’s a unit playing with confidence after keeping Von Miller and the Broncos’ pass rush at bay for most of the game on Monday.
The Chargers’ day in the L.A. spotlight comes Sunday, with the Dolphins hoping to wreck the opening act.