By Dave Thomas
Different city, same result.
It seems no matter where the Los Angeles Chargers play these days, they find a way to break the hearts of their fans.
With their first home game at their temporary digs in Carson, Calif., the Chargers went right down to the wire, albeit dropping a 19-17 decision to Miami. Los Angeles (0-2) had a chance to win the game, but rookie kicker Younghoe Koo’s 44-yard field goal drifted just wide to the right.
For Miami, it was win number one of the season. The Dolphins had their opener a week ago postponed due to Hurricane Irma.
So, are the Chargers setting their fans up for yet another season of heartbreak? After losses to Denver and Miami, respectively, it would certainly seem that way.
Up next, the Chargers will host AFC West rival Kansas City next Sunday.
While points can be difficult to come by in the NFL on any given weekend, Miami is not exactly the Denver or Houston of AFC defenses. As such, the Chargers should have done a better job moving the ball, especially since the Dolphins had yet to see a regular season game up to this point. QB Philip Rivers did pass for 331 yards (31-of-39), including a record-producing 112th touchdown to veteran tight end Antonio Gates (broke record held by Tony Gonzalez at 111).
Star wide receiver Keenan Allen had nine catches for 100 yards. If the Chargers can keep Allen productive and, more importantly, healthy, he can finish with some sound numbers this season. That said, the Los Angeles rushing game was yet again inept. The Chargers managed a meager 44 yards of total rushing, with Branden Oliver tallying 31 of those. Try winning a high school game—let alone one in the NFL—with less than 50 yards on the ground.
Even though Miami’s Jay Cutler is on the back-end of his career, he’s still capable of putting up good numbers on any given weekend. Where Miami may have surprised the Bolts to a larger degree was running back Jay Ajayi gaining 122 yards on the ground. Ajayi did enough to keep the Los Angeles defense honest most of the afternoon. In doing so, it allowed Cutler to complete some big passes in tough situations. Cutler was able to get the Dolphins in position for the game-winning field goal with some nifty passes and good catches from his receivers. For the day, Jatavis Brown (12 total tackles) paced the Chargers, while Tre Boston chipped in with nine total stops.
Special Teams: C-
What else can you say about rookie kicker Younghoe Koo? Having beaten out Josh Lambo for the kicking job, Koo was supposed to be the answer, especially in tight games. In his NFL regular season debut last Monday night in Denver, Koo’s potential game-tying field goal was partially blocked, allowing the Broncos to escape with a 24-21 win.
Fast forward less than a week later, Koo once again had the game on his foot, albeit a potential game-winning kick. When his boot went wide to the right, Koo and the Chargers could do nothing but hang their heads. Although it is only two weeks into the season, don’t be shocked if the Bolts are already placing calls to see if any kickers (especially veterans) are wanting to come in for a tryout this week.
Although rookie head coach Anthony Lynn can’t make plays for his team, he does certainly take responsibility for coaching calls on the field. While it is easy to speculate, should the Chargers have tried to score a TD instead of putting the game on their rookie kicker’s foot at the end? Unless the Bolts go out and get a new kicker, will Lynn have faith the next time Koo has a chance to tie or win the game?
Lynn is also going to have to watch a lot of film to see why the running game continues to sputter. Yes, Melvin Gordon had some solid games a season ago. That said, 13 yards on nine carries (as in Sunday’s game) from the third-year product is not going to get it done.
Up Next: With Miami in the rear-view mirror, Los Angeles will host Kansas City this coming Sunday. The Chiefs lead the all-time series 58-55-1, having won six straight between the longtime AFC rivals.