The defense struggled most mightily, as the Cardinals scored on three of their first four possessions. Part of that was due to injuries -- Antonio Garay, Shaun Phillips, Larry English and Travis LaBoy all sat with injuries -- but the primary culprit was a simple lack of execution.
"When we do things right, when we get everyone playing on the same page, we're pretty good," Norv Turner said. "We obviously have a number of new players and a number of backup players playing on defense and we are not as consistent as we need to be."
Despite a lack of consistency, the Chargers made just enough timely big plays to eke out a win in the desert.
Facing a 17-3 hole early in the second quarter, Philip Rivers hit Vincent Jackson for 31 yards, Jackson's third straight game with a catch of at least 30 yards. One play later, Rivers connected with a returning Gates for a 13-yard touchdown.
After the defense allowed another score on an end-around to Andre Roberts, Rivers struck again before intermission, hitting Malcom Floyd from 3 yards out.
LB Antwan Barnes
M. Rebilas/U.S. Presswire
The final scoring drive was engineered by Billy Volek. Big plays included a 19-yard pass to Jordan Todman on fourth-and-10 and an 18-yard strike to Laurent Robinson. From there, Bryan Walters stole the show. He hauled in a 27-yard catch on a tipped ball over the middle before the game-winner from 14 yards out with three seconds to play.
The winning catch lifted the Chargers to a 2-1 preseason mark. They close out their preseason docket on Thursday, Sept. 1, when they host the 49ers.
--Although Walters stole the show, Richard Goodman may have done more to close in on the No. 6 receiver position. He returned three kickoffs for 90 yards, including a 43-yarder in which he had only the kicker to beat, and has emerged as a serious candidate to be the primary kick returner during the regular season. He also had an 11-yard reception.
--Ryan Mathews averaged 6.9 yards on 10 runs, although that number was inflated greatly by a 48-yard run up the middle early in the third quarter. He also had another fumble, although the Chargers recovered it.
--Nate Kaeding handled kickoffs for the first time this preseason. Two of his five attempts went for touchbacks and none of the others were returned past the 20-yard line. He also went 2-for-2 on field goals, even connecting from over 50 yards out for the second consecutive week.
--Donald Butler led the defense with five tackles.
Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 16 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.