Chargers 24, Cardinals 7

Ryan Mathews is off and running this preseason, and Jonathan

Cooper’s season could be over before it really began.

Mathews, slowed by two broken collarbones a year ago, carried 14

times for 57 yards and a touchdown, and the Chargers beat the

mistake-prone Cardinals 24-7 for their first preseason victory

under new coach Mike McCoy. Mathews did fumble the ball at the

Arizona goal line, but even that play turned in to a San Diego

touchdown.

The Cardinals lost several players due to injury, including left

guard Jonathan Cooper, the team’s first-round pick who broke his

left leg and was helped off the field in the third quarter.

”We don’t know if it’ll be the season, or if he’ll get to

return,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said, ”Right now it’s

looking like the season.”

Arizona’s Rashard Mendenhall carried six times for 47 yards

before leaving with an ankle injury.

The Chargers blocked a punt, blocked a field goal and returned a

fumble for a touchdown – all in the first half.

”We talk about being a smart football team,” Arians said,

”and that’s probably the dumbest 30 minutes of football that I’ve

ever seen.”

Philip Rivers completed 10 of 18 passes for 71 yards with an

interception. Arizona’s Carson Palmer was 12 of 23 for 122 yards

and a TD.

”This is the way we like to play week in and week out, with all

three phases making plays and doing their job to the b est of their

ability,” McCoy said.

Arizona’s problems began at the end of its first possession when

Darrell Stuckey blocked Dave Zastudil’s punt and the Chargers

recovered at the Arizona 34. But a false start penalty pushed San

Diego back, and Nick Novak’s 51-yard field goal try was no

good.

After a Cardinals three-and-out, San Diego went 92 yards in 12

plays, using up 6:51 of the first quarter. Mathews dived over the

middle into the end zone, the first points allowed by Arizona’s

first-team defense in the preseason. The drive featured an

unnecessary roughness penalty against the Cardinals’ Ronald

Talley.

Early in the second quarter, Arizona rookie Tyrann Mathieu hit

Rivers’ arm as he threw and the ball popped into the air. Jasper

Brinkley intercepted and lateraled to Patrick Peterson, giving the

Cardinals the ball at their 47. The Cardinals drove to the

Chargers’ 8-yard line, but on third-and-goal, Rob Housler dropped

Palmer’s pass in the end zone. Then Kwame Geathers blocked Dan

Carpenter’s 26-yard field goal try.

The wild second touchdown came a short time later.

The third pass interference penalty of the game against Arizona

cornerback Jerraud Powers put the ball at the Cardinals’ 1. Mathews

went over the middle, but the ball popped free. Cardinals safety

Rashad Johnson picked it up but, in an ill-advised move, lateraled

to Sam Acho.

Acho was hit by Antonio Gates and again the ball popped in the

air. Another San Diego tight end, John Phillips, grabbed it and

returned it 3 yards for the score to make it 14-0.

”It’s not the conventional way to score,” Rivers said. ”I

don’t know if I’ve seen a play like that in a long time.”

A challenge by McCoy backfired and set up Arizona’s

touchdown.

Palmer threw over the middle to Andre Roberts, who dropped the

ball. But McCoy challenged that it was a fumble, and indeed it was.

However, officials ruled that Roberts, not the Chargers, recovered

at the San Diego 16. On the next play, Palmer threw to Michael

Floyd for the only touchdown for Arizona’s first-team offense in

the preseason.

The Chargers also scored on Fozzy Whittaker’s 5-yard run and

Novak’s 50-yard field goal.

Cooper, the seventh pick overall out of North Carolina, had been

a starter virtually since he arrived in Arizona.

”You just feel sorry for him, being a rookie and this only

being his third preseason game,” teammate Larry Fitzgerald said.

”He’s a big part of who we’re going to be and our identity moving

forward, not only for this year but for years to come. You feel

really bad for him.”

Ken Whisenhunt, fired as Arizona head coach after last season,

returned to University of Phoenix Stadium as the Chargers’

offensive coordinator.

Other injuries:

-Cardinals NT Dan Williams hurt his right ankle on the

double-fumble touchdown play and did not return. He was out earlier

in camp with knee and ankle injuries.

-Chargers CB Johnny Patrick left in the first half with a

concussion.

-Housler also left the game, with a right ankle injury.

Online:

AP NFL site: http://pro32.ap.org

Follow Bob Baum at www.twitter.com/Thebaumerphx