Chargers Deliver Dallas Another December Loss

The San Diego Chargers will finally get the national recognition they're due -- all it took was a win on the road vs. America's Team. With that win in-hand, the Chargers pushed their win streak to eight and opened up a two-game lead in the AFC West.

Sunday's scoreboard unfolded beautifully for the Chargers. The win over the Cowboys -- combined with losses by the Denver Broncos and Cincinnati Bengals -- gives the Chargers a two-game lead in their division and a leg-up in the race for the No. 2 seed. San Diego hosts Cincinnati next week.

The Chargers took the lead on a 1-yard TD plunge by LaDainian Tomlinson in the first quarter -- marking his ninth straight season with at least 10 rushing scores -- and never trailed after that.

Philip Rivers controlled the tempo and completed 21 of 31 passes (67.7 percent) with a touchdown and an interception, his first pick in the last five weeks. Rivers' score was a 14-yard strike to Antonio Gates in the fourth quarter; Gates finished with four catches for 44 yards.

Rivers' favorite target was Vincent Jackson, who exploded for seven catches and 120 yards. It was an overdue performance for Jackson, who had been held under 60 receiving yards in each of the previous five games. Jackson was also involved in a trick play from the Wildcat formation in which he pitched the ball back to Rivers, who heaved it downfield to Malcom Floyd and drew a 38-yard pass-interference penalty.

LB Brandon Siler
Ronald Martinez/Getty
But while the fantasy players were impressive, the reality of the situation is that the defense won the game. Despite a litany of injuries on the defensive line and the absence of starting safety Eric Weddle, the Chargers held Dallas to just 4 yards per carry, a full yard below its average. Most the stat stuffing came on a hugely impressive goal-line stand in which San Diego denied the Cowboys thrice from the 1-yard line, thanks to plays from Brandon Siler and Tim Dobbins.

After giving up a field goal on the game's opening drive, the defense yielded just one more score -- a 6-yard TD by Miles Austin -- until the game was out of reach.

The Chargers won the third phase of the game, as well. Nate Kaeding converted both field goal attempts (29, 34) and Kassim Osgood downed a pair of Mike Scifres punts inside the 5-yard line.

The victory extended a few impressive streaks for San Diego. Rivers improved to 16-0 in the month of December, the longest such streak in NFL history. As a team, the Chargers won their eighth consecutive game -- a half-season's worth of contests.

The streak San Diego is more worried about extending is its run of consecutive AFC West titles. The Chargers have a chance to secure a fourth straight crown next week if the Oakland Raiders beat the Broncos in Denver, regardless of the outcome of the Chargers-Bengals game.

Scoreboard watching aside, with three games to play Norv Turner's team is in the driver's seat with its eyes set squarely on a No. 2 seed and a first-round bye.

What are Bolts fans saying about the win in Big D'? Find out in the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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