QB Philip Rivers (Ronald Martinez/Getty)
The Dallas Cowboys handed the San Diego Chargers a 16-14 loss at Qualcomm on Saturday, but the talk of the town remains on Philip Rivers' early showing. His fire burned bright from the get-go, sending a message overriding the "it's just preseason" memo. Only a few players lived up to his precedent.
The San Diego Chargers took an at-home loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday, but the first-half produced plenty of excitement and regular-season drama: QB Philip Rivers mouthing off to officials; Rivers taking a touchdown dash; Rivers saving a touchdown with a textbook tackle. Wait … Rivers, tackle?
The exhibition game began relatively harmlessly. In the opening drive, first downs flowed like water in the Mississippi until Rivers was sacked (DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer) and immediately picked off (Terence Newman) just outside the Cowboys 10-yard line. This series of mishaps started the fire.
Rivers received a helping hand from his defense when Eric Weddle returned the interception favor thanks to pressure from Shaun Phillips. The turnover yielded a Rivers-ran touchdown for the Chargers' opening score, 7-0.
It would appear Rivers was a one-man band, as he immediately joined the defense after SS Barry Church recovered a fumble and ran it for 80 yards with only Rivers to stop him. Rivers went parallel and brought him down with 2:08 left in the half. Rivers' couldn't help but smile as he watched the replay from the sidelines, where he'd stay for the rest of the game.
End of the River, Beginning For Some
Post Rivers, the Chargers players with something to prove took over. Many players earned nods of approval. Billy Volek took over the reigns and found himself sacked and the score tied 7-7 before intermission. Volek found a rhythm in the third quarter when he located Seyi Ajirotutu 56 yards away, with former Charger Cletis Gordon burned on the play.
Ajirotutu came to the Chargers after seeing minimal looks from his alma mater, Fresno State, but he's putting in the work to stick around. His 56-yard reception led the way for RB Marcus Mason to inch the Chargers out to 14-7. Three is company in the battle for the final running back spot -- Mason is battling with Shawnbrey McNeal and Curtis Brinkley.
The Cowboys found their way back to a tied game, 14-14, but Richard Goodman received more looks than the scoreboard. For the second-consecutive week he established himself as a viable option as a kick returner. Against the Bears, he went 51 yards. Against the Cowboys, he brought one back 35 yards. In both games, the kicker pushed Goodman out of bounds.
But in the final minutes it was a lackadaisical showing from the Chargers defense, a young Jonathan Crompton and the Cowboys defense (Gordon came back with a vengeance), who pushed the Chargers out of contention on Saturday.
Despite a sack from Antwan Applewhite, the Chargers defense failed to bail out Crompton, who went for negative yards in his first drive and couldn't get his offense working. Crompton found himself on the wrong end of a sack/fumble/safety, which resulted in a 16-14 final in favor of the Cowboys.
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