The debut of rookie quarterback Drew Brees may have been impressive, but it was the debut of Reggie Hunt as the Chargers kickoff returner that gave the team its' second preseason victory, a thrilling 23-20 overtime win over the Miami Dolphins.
Hunt, who led the nation in kick returns as a senior at Texas Christian University, took the overtime kickoff and raced 72-yards, setting up Cedric Oglesby's game-winning 33-yard field goal.
"I told them that I led the nation in kickoff returns, so they need to put me back there," Hunt said. "I told them I need to be back there. I think I convinced them now."
In a game filled with miscommunication, mistakes and poor execution, the Chargers did what they had to in order to survive, pretty or not.
The miscommunication began even before the opening kickoff, as the Chargers headsets malfunctioned, leaving communication between the coaching staff and the quarterbacks limited to a quick jog between the sidelines and the field.
"When we were on the sideline testing it, occasionally it worked," Flutie told reporters.
"And then you get on the field and they didn't know it didn't work. So, I was just going from the plays we had talked about starting the game with, before each series. I ran from a script in my head and was calling plays. Then all of a sudden they sent in different personnel, and it's like, 'Damn! Now what do we do?' So, I was guessing a lot play-callingwise."
Without a backup plan in effect the Chargers were forced to burn their allotment of first half time outs with 11:10 still remaining in the second quarter.
"We were out of sync offensively because we couldn't communicate," said Bolts head coach Mike Riley. "Our head phones were out the whole game. The whole system broke down. It was like junior high."
Poor communication led to poor execution, as the Chargers had just three plays longer than 6 yards in the opening half, ironically all coming on the teams' first touchdown drive.
Flutie connected with Curtis Conway for a 37-yard gain and followed up with a 21-yard toss to Steve Heiden. Running back Ronny Jenkins carried the momentum sprinting around the right side for a 22-yard touchdown run, tying the score at 7-7 midway through the first half.
Wade Richey gave San Diego its first lead with a 47-yard field goal, but the Dolphins struck back as quarterback Jay Fiedler connected with Jeff Ogden for a 7-yard score and placekicker Olindo Mare booted a 25-yard field goal to give Miami a 17-10 lead at the half.
Brees, who replaced Flutie late in the second quarter, struggled slightly at first but found his rhythm after halftime, engineering a seven-play, 77-yard drive, topped off with a 28-yard touchdown toss to Trevor Gaylor, tying the score at 17-17.
Brees finish his debut hitting 15 of 24 passes for 194 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions for a quarterback rating of 101.7.
"I thought I was O.K.," Brees said afterwards. "I was happy with some of my throws and some of my reads, but obviously I could have made some better throws and quicker reads. It's going to come with experience. Some things become second nature after a while, the play fakes, the drops, seeing the coverage, that sort of thing."
San Diego took the lead early in the fourth as backup Cedric Ogelsby connected from 18-yards out for his first field goal of the evening, giving the Bolts a 20-17 advantage.
That lead was short lived however, as Miami's counterpart, Mare, found the range from 23-yards out for his second field goal of the evening, tying the score at 20-20.
Miami, plagued by penalty problems throughout the game, made a valiant but fruitless effort on the final play of regulation as Mare sailed wide right on a 58-yard attempt that would have sealed the victory for the Dolphins.
"We had momentum and we had an opportunity, and the personal fouls kept the game going," said Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt. "It kept the game alive, and that will lose games for you. We have to learn from that."
It was, in fact, a series of Dolphin penalties the helped ensure a Charger victory, as the overtime kickoff was negated with an offside penalty, wiping out what would have been a Chargers touchback.
On the ensuing kickoff Miami generously donated another five yards to the Chargers off a face mask penalty during Hunt's 72-yard runback.
With the end zone 33-yards away, Riley elected to end the teams' week in Miami on their first play of overtime, sending out Ogelsby for the game winning score.
Defensive tackle Jamal Williams suffered a sprained
left knee in the first quarter and did not return. Cornerback Alex Molden suffered a
strained right groin in the second quarter and did not return. Wide receiver Rodney
Williams suffered a left hip flexor strain in the third quarter and did not
return.Defensive tackle Dequincy Scott suffered a lower back strain in the fourth quarter
and left the field on a cart.
Cornerback Troy Grant suffered a bruised chest.
Linebacker Carlos Polk suffered a stinger in the fourth quarter
Strong safety Rodney Harrison suffered a mild quad strain.
Linebacker Sam Rogers suffered a quad contusion.