GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Malcom Floyd caught a 6-yard touchdown pass and San Diego set up another score by forcing a fumble on the next drive, helping the Chargers to a 17-6 lead over the Arizona Cardinals after three quarters on Monday night.
Neither team could get much going in a defense-dominated first half, combining for three field goals.
The Chargers had 108 total yards in the first half, but had no trouble moving the ball during their opening drive of the third quarter. San Diego went 80 yards in seven plays on the drive, capped by Philip Rivers’ TD pass to Floyd.
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Jerry Attaochu, who blocked a punt in the second quarter, stripped Arizona’s Carson Palmer on the ensuing drive. Three plays later, Ryan Mathews broke outside for a 20-yard touchdown run that put San Diego up 17-6.
Arizona’s Chandler Cantanzaro had his first two career field goals in the first half, including a 44-yarder at the halftime buzzer to put the Cardinals up 6-3. Jerraud Powers intercepted a pass by Rivers to set up the last-second kick.
The Chargers and Cardinals began the day hoping to build on turnaround seasons.
San Diego had a superb first season under rookie coach Mike McCoy, finishing 9-7 to end a three-year playoff drought.
Rivers had a resurgent season in 2013 and the Chargers have plenty of playmakers, including star tight end Antonio Gates, three quality running backs and receiver Keenan Allen, who led all NFL rookies in every significant receiving category.
With some key offseason acquisitions, San Diego is looking to go deeper in the playoffs this season.
The Cardinals finished with a better record than the Chargers at 10-6 under first-year coach Bruce Arians, yet missed the playoffs in the deep NFC.
Arizona had a little tougher offseason.
Starting linebacker Karlos Dansby was lost to free agency and Daryl Washington, who started alongside him last season, has been suspended for the year. The Cardinals also lost starting defensive tackle Darnell Dockett to a torn ACL during fall camp and Tyrann Mathieu, who showed flashes of star quality as a rookie last season, was not ready for the opener after tearing two knee ligaments late last season.
Arizona still has Palmer, who should be better with a year of Arians’ system under his belt, and got good news when running back Andre Ellington was able to play Monday night after injuring his left foot last week.