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Josh Johnson got to the fourth-down pass before the Cardinals receiver could. And when the batted ball fell to the turf, the defense secured the ball and the team's first preseason win.
The Chargers notched their first preseason victory on the strength of a fourth quarter shut out and won 24-7. Led by Johnson's tip and 2.5 sacks by linebacker Thomas Keiser, the Cardinals offense could never stay in scoring range long enough to threaten the Bolts' 17-point lead.
The first victory for Mike McCoy as Chargers' coach came after a few kneel downs in the victory formation. Arizona exhausted its timeouts and watched as Nate Enderle drained the clock.
The two teams traded punts all quarter. But with the lead, the Chargers could afford to watch the seconds pass by. Read
Welcome back to Arizona, Fozzy Whittaker.
The first-year back signed off waivers from the Cardinals in March broke through with a five-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Nick Novak kicked a 50-yard field goal on the next drive, extending the Chargers' lead over the Cardinals 24-7 as the fourth quarter begins.
In just seven plays and just over two minutes, the Chargers traversed 80 yards to set up Whittaker's score. A long catch-and-run from backup Charlie Whitehurst to preseason star Ladarius Green highlighted the quick drive.
Whitehurst hit Green in stride and the second-year tight end turned the afterburners on. He outran several defenders before one took the exact right angle to trip him up before he could find the end zone.
Whittaker did that a few plays later. The Cardinals pushed him backward on his first handoff, but on his next one, he powered through tacklers to break the goal line.
The Cardinals first-team offense scored against the Chargers' backup defense on a 16-yard pitch and catch earlier in the quarter to Michael Floyd. But when the backup offense took the field, the Chargers' reserves made a statement.
Linebacker D.J. Smith rammed into a would-be receiver and knocked the ball into the hands of fellow linebacker Andrew Gachkar. Whitehurst advanced the offense eleven yards and Novak booted his 50-yarder with just over two minutes to go in the quarter.
Keenan Allen fumbled a punt during last week's game in the Windy City. This week in the desert, he looked like a serious threat to take one all the way back.
The rookie returner sparked a strong quarter of special teams play with his 44-yard bring back. The Chargers offense followed suit, executing a two-minute drill and widening their lead to 14-0 as the first half ended.
The Chargers’ second score came on a wacky turn of events. Rivers drove the offense and set the team up for a late touchdown when he handed to Ryan Mathews. Mathews fumbled and the Cardinals recovered, but they tried to set up their own score with a lateral.
Tight end Antonio Gates, however, jarred the ball loose to John Phillips, who scored on a three-yard fumble recovery.
The Bolts kept their opponents off the scoreboard with more stellar special teams play. The Chargers defense held firm and forced a field goal deep in their own territory, and rookie defensive lineman Kwame Geathers burst through the protection to tip away the attempt.
The last time that happened in the regular season? Adrian Dingle blocked a Jets field goal on November 3, 2002.
Allen's big punt return could've provided a similar spark. But a tipped pass by Philip Rivers ended that scoring threat and gave the ball back to Arizona. Pressure forced the quarterback to step into a collapsing pocket. His hurried throw was tipped right into the waiting arms of Arizona linebacker Jasper Brinkley, who ran down the sidelines and set his team up to score.
They didn't, though, thanks to a big effort by Geathers and a much-improved week for special teams coach Kevin Spencer's unit.
Philip Rivers took command of the tempo, the offense marched 92 yards, and the Chargers lead the Cardinals 7-0 after one quarter.
Ryan Mathews' leaping one-yard score was the exclamation point on a drive that spanned nearly seven minutes. Rivers was in full control of his huddle - or lack thereof - from the beginning. The veteran passer sped up the Chargers offense with a no-huddle approach and appeared to freely audibled at the line of scrimmage to keep the Cardinals defense off balance.
Both plans worked on that opening drive. Ryan Mathews carried the ball five times for 35 yards on the drive, which culminated in his one-yard aerial score.
The defense did its part, too. After surrendering a highlight-reel, one-handed catch to Larry Fitzgerald and a big run to Rashard Mendenhall, the first-stringers settled down. Dwight Freeney continued his stellar preseason with heavy pressure on two plays.
Not to be outdone, the Bolts special teams also made an impact as Darrell Stuckey blocked a punt early in the quarter.
The Chargers starting defense is on the field as the second quarter commences.
The San Diego Chargers team will search for its first preseason win in the desert tonight.
The Chargers (0-2) take on the Arizona Cardinals (2-0) at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. It's the second straight road test for head coach Mike McCoy's team after a comeback attempt fell short against the Bears in Chicago last week.
New Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt returns to face the team he coached to its first-ever Super Bowl berth in 2009. His successor is new Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians, who was hired in Arizona after earning Coach of the Year honors as an interim head coach with the Indianapolis Colts last season.
The Arians era will begin with a former Oakland Raider at quarterback. Carson Palmer takes over to try and provide stability to a position that fielded four different signal-callers in 2012. Palmer will look to further develop his rapport with all-everything receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Arians will continue to evaluate his offensive line, which fields four new starters this season.
Whisenhunt and McCoy hope the Chargers offense cut down on the mistakes in tonight's dress rehearsal. Two turnovers interrupted Philip Rivers and the first-string offense last week. Rivers will look to re-establish an offensive rhythm against the Cardinals with a running game spearheaded by Ryan Mathews, an ever-improving offensive line featuring rookie standout D.J. Fluker, and a familiar face at wide receiver, Seji Ajirotutu.
Defensive coordinator John Pagano's unit will look to duplicate the same hot start they had against the Bears. Minus one big run by Matt Forte, the team played a solid game on the defensive side of the ball.
Kickoff is set for 7:00pm. Be sure to stay tuned to Chargers.com throughout the game. Read