Bolts Beat the Birds, 33-31

The San Diego Chargers outlasted the Arizona Cardinals in a back-and-forth desert duel, claiming a 33-31 victory to improve to 2-1 on the preseason. Nate Kaeding drilled a game-winning 37-yard field goal with two seconds remaining to seal the win. The secondary suffered through a shaky outing, but the real concern is Michael Turner, who was carted off in the first half with an ankle injury.

The evening got off to a rough start when J.J. Arrington returned the opening kickoff 70 yards, setting up the Arizona Cardinals at the San Diego 32-yard line. The Chargers defense rose to the occasion, forcing a three-and-out that led to a 50-yard field goal by Neil Rackers.

The offense looked sharp out of the gates, moving downfield on a 14-play, seven-minute drive that set up a Nate Kaeding field goal. The big play of the drive was a 24-yard completion to Vincent Jackson on third-and-8. Jackson was money throughout night, catching four passes for 92 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

As good as Jackson was, Anquan Boldin was even better. Arizona's Pro Bowl receiver put the Cardinals back in front on the next drive, hauling in an 80-yard touchdown. On the play, Quentin Jammer followed Bryant Johnson into the flat while Boldin blew by Drayton Florence. Clinton Hart should have been providing help over the top but was nowhere to be found.

The Chargers offense answered right back. Philip Rivers completed four of six passes on the drive, including a 23-yard completion to Antonio Gates. Seven plays later, Darren Sproles broke free up the middle, shaking Aaron Francisco and scoring from 19 yards out.

The Cardinals fumbled the ensuing kickoff, with Nick Roach recovering the loose ball. However, Michael Turner gave the ball right back, fumbling after a hard hit by Karlos Dansby. The Cardinals took advantage of the turnover, moving downfield in just eight plays and putting six on the board with a 4-yard run by Marcel Shipp.

The San Diego offense nearly got the points right back, but lost possession on a controversial play. Lorenzo Neal caught a pass out in the flat and somersaulted over cornerback Rod Hood. Neal got up and kept running, only to be hit by Gerald Hayes 5 yards shy of the end zone. The ball popped loose just as Neal's knee hit the turf. Norv Turner challenged the ruling of a fumble but the play was upheld.

The defense gave Neal & Co. a quick shot at redemption by forcing a three-and-out. The offense took full advantage, picking up 28 yards on screen pass to Sproles. Two plays later, Rivers found Jackson for a 33-yard touchdown, tying the score at 17.

Quentin Jammer stopped the next drive by forcing his second fumble in as many weeks and the teams went into the locker rooms all squared up.

The Chargers offense began to pile it on after the intermission. Rivers guided his team on an 11-play drive, capped off with a 4-yard strike to Jackson. Rivers would watch the rest of the game from the bench.

The Cardinals turned to their back-up as well, bringing in former league MVP Kurt Warner. On his first play, Warner was sacked and stripped by Luis Castillo, who came up with the recovery as well. The Chargers converted the turnover into a 25-yard field goal by Kaeding.

Arizona drew back within three by scoring on the subsequent drive, although that was hardly a fair exchange. While the Chargers had Cletis Gordon and Paul Oliver playing the corners, the Cardinals kept Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald in the game. As a result, Warner went 6 for 7 on the drive.

The teams traded punts before Billy Volek nearly put the game away, driving the Chargers down to the Arizona 3-yard line with just over six minutes left. However, he misfired on a fade attempt to Greg Camarillo and the Chargers had to settle for a field goal and six-point lead, instead of pushing the lead to double digits.

The Cardinals nearly made the Chargers pay with a gutsy drive led by third-string quarterback Shane Boyd. In just four minutes, Boyd marched his team 62 yards and found undrafted rookie Matt Trannon for a 5-yard score, as the 6-foot-6 receiver out-jumped 6-foot-3 Antonio Cromartie.

Volek got the ball back with 1:06 left on the clock and no timeouts. Turns out, that was more than enough. He hit Sproles for 14 yards, Legedu Naanee for 12 and Kassim Osgood for 23, setting up Kaeding's 37-yard game winner.

Lightning Quicks: The Chargers gained 506 yards on offense...The severity of Michael Turner's injury was not immediately known...Craig Davis missed the game after having his wisdom teeth removed...Andrew Pinnock led the team with 60 yards rushing on 15 carries...Sproles led the team with six receptions, good for 73 yards...Roach and Brandon Siler both shined on special teams as they continue their heated battle for the final back-up linebacker spot.


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