Once the starters were out of the game, the San Diego Chargers found a pulse and beat the Dallas Cowboys.
Shareece Wright’s electrifying 73-yard interception return set up Jackie Battle’s go-ahead, 2-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter, and backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst threw two touchdown passes in the Chargers’ 28-20 win on Saturday night.
The Chargers (2-0) overcame three turnovers, including two interceptions by Philip Rivers, to rally from a 10-0 deficit. The Bolts have five turnovers in two exhibitions.
Cornerback DeAndre Presley deflected a pass from Cowboys third-string quarterback Stephen McGee, and Wright plucked the ball out of the air. He ran down the right sideline and cut the middle of the field before he was dragged down by John Phillips at the 2-yard line. After an incompletion by Whitehurst, Battle bulled into the end zone to give the Chargers their first lead, 14-13.
Wright had the end zone on his mind.
”I thought I was running fast enough not to get caught,” Wright said. ”We scored. That’s all that mattered. We set the offense up to get the touchdown so it all worked out.”
Wright also sacked McGee and forced a fumble that Darryl Gamble recovered.
Whitehurst played well after replacing Rivers. He started the Chargers’ comeback with an 18-yard touchdown pass to Vincent Brown on the first drive of the second half. Brown broke his left ankle on the play and was carted off the field.
Chargers coach Norv Turner didn’t know yet if Brown will need surgery.
”I think we’re equipped to handle whatever comes our way and we’ll have guys step up and fill his shoes,” Turner said.
The Chargers got some breathing room midway through the fourth quarter when Whitehurst hit rookie Mike Willie on a 38-yard touchdown pass for a 21-13 lead. Jacob Hester added a 4-yard touchdown run with 3:02 left.
”It felt great,” said Whitehurst, reacquired by the Chargers in the offseason from Seattle. ”I was telling Willie, `I haven’t played in an NFL game since October.’ It felt good and I’ll feel more comfortable after the game for sure.
”Mike Willie made a heck of a play on his and obviously Vincent had a heck of a catch,” Whitehurst said. ”I hope we don’t lose him for long. It was two great plays with two great receivers there.”
The Cowboys will remain in San Diego for joint practices with the Chargers on Monday and Tuesday.
Dallas closed to 28-20 in the final minute on Rudy Carpenter’s 15-yard scoring pass to Dwayne Harris.
Brandon Carr had two interceptions for the Cowboys (1-1). Carr’s first pickoff, of Rivers’ badly underthrown pass to Robert Meachem, set up a drive capped by Jamize Olawale’s 2-yard touchdown run for a 10-0 lead in the second quarter. Kyle Orton, who replaced Tony Romo after two series, had a 35-yard completion to Kevin Ogletree.
Romo led the Cowboys on a 12-play, 39-yard drive capped by Dan Bailey’s 40-yard field goal late in the first quarter. The Cowboys were called for three penalties for 25 yards on the drive.
”It’s tough to gauge off of a couple drives, especially with the penalties,” Romo said. ”In football, if one guy makes a mistake, it shows for the entire group. We should have got a lot more out of those drives.
”Saying that, I’m also excited about our defense and the way they played. I had a smile all over my face knowing how good they played.”
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Carr’s interceptions ”were two big-time plays. We preach the ball, the ball, the ball, all the time to the team, and when guys make those plays, they’re difference-making plays.”
Turner, on the other hand, wasn’t pleased with his offense in the first half.
”It just shows to me that we’ve got a lot of work to do,” he said.
Besides Rivers’ two interceptions – one of which was tipped – San Diego also had a fumbled snap.
Bailey kicked a 49-yard field goal late in the third quarter for a 13-7 Dallas lead.