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Chargers overcome deficit in thriller
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PHOENIX – The Chargers survived a flurry of big plays, then ground away at two 14-point deficits.
The layer separating the teams got thin, but San Diego couldn’t muster a final forcible blow.
Then Billy Volek and Bryan Walters served as a two-headed pile driver, smashing through once and for all.
Walters snagged a 14-yard touchdown catch as the Chargers (2-1) celebrated a last-second 34-31 win over Arizona (1-2) Saturday at University of Phoenix Stadium.
“It was obviously a wild game. We dug ourselves in a hole but I liked the way our guys handled it on the sideline,” Head Coach Norv Turner said. “I liked the way the young guys finished and found a way to go win the game.”
It seemed the game’s drama might dissipate after San Diego couldn’t quite complete the equalizer in the third quarter, stalling inside the red zone.
Floyd came within inches of his second touchdown, but his diving end-zone effort on third-and-12 glanced off his fingertips, leading to Nate Kaeding’s second field goal.
San Diego’s starters gave way soon after, and Arizona added a 6-yard LaRod Stephens-Howling touchdown reception in the fourth quarter to re-insert an 11-point cushion.
Late theatrics by Darryl Gamble, who recovered a Cardinals fumble and rolled into the end zone for a touchdown, weren’t enough to bridge a two-score gap but left room for Volek to execute a 12-play, 90-yard drive in the final 3:08. San Diego converted two third downs and a fourth down to keep possession, and Walters caught a tipped pass across the middle for 27 yards to set up a final chance.
Then Volek threw his way again for the go-ahead score with three seconds left.
“I love him. He’s a great route-runner. He’s extremely smart, he’s deceivingly fast and he works his tail end off,” Volek said of Walters. “We’ve got a lot of receivers like that. Bryan is just taking advantage of the opportunity he has.”
Said Walters: “I’m finally getting a shot. Last year I was injured and I didn’t get the opportunity to play in a preseason game, so it’s been nice to get back out there and run around on the grass a little bit.”
The Chargers spotted the Cardinals a 17-3 lead early after two rapid-fire big plays by Arizona.
Larry Fitzgerald caught an 80-yard touchdown pass from Kevin Kolb, then rookie first-round pick Patrick Peterson returned an interception 34 yards one minute, 38 seconds later.
Philip Rivers gained traction during the game’s midsection.
Rivers completed 5-of-5 passes for 81 yards on the Chargers’ initial touchdown drive, which Antonio Gates punctuated with a 13-yard touchdown catch.
Receiver Andre Roberts’ 34-yard reverse touchdown run gave Arizona a 24-10 lead with 11:09 left in the second quarter, but Rivers floated a 3-yard touchdown to Malcom Floyd in the back of the end zone, ensuring the Chargers stayed on Arizona’s heels at halftime.
Nate Kaeding added field goals of 52 and 36 yards in the win.
“We put ourselves in an adverse situation and we were able to fight back and keep it close,” Jeromey Clary said. “And at the end of the day, we ended up winning.” Read