Chargers-Cowboys Preview

BY foxsports • December 16, 2009

Only one game into this month, the talk of another December swoon is already swirling in Dallas.

The month has only been good to the San Diego Chargers in recent seasons.

The Cowboys' lone home game in what has become their dreaded month will take place Sunday against the Chargers, who are unbeaten since October and riding the longest December winning streak in NFL history.

Just like last season, Dallas is 8-4 and in position to make the playoffs. The Cowboys are hoping to avoid a finish like they had in 2008, similar to the ones they've had for most of this decade.

They went 1-3 in December last year, including a 44-6 season-ending loss at Philadelphia to keep them out of the playoffs. Dallas entered that December on a three-game win streak and went into this one having won six of seven, but lost 31-24 to the New York Giants last Sunday.

"Until we win, I know we're going to hear about (December)," linebacker Bradie James said. "No matter how bad it can be, we've got to figure out a way to win."

Tony Romo fell to 5-9 in December despite throwing for a career-high 392 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

The defense gave up more than 21 points for the first time in 11 games and now must face a San Diego team which leads the AFC with 28.5 points per contest.

The Cowboys, who haven't had a winning December since going 3-2 in 2001, could fall out of a tie for the NFC East lead with a loss Sunday.

"We have to get back to it and forget all this December stuff," said tight end Jason Witten, who had 14 catches for a career-high 156 yards against the Giants. "I'm not trying to avoid it or say it's not true. We've got to put it away. You let another one slip and you're really in trouble."

The Chargers (9-3) have had no such troubles in December.

They've won a league-record 15 in a row in the month since a 23-7 defeat to Denver on Dec. 31, 2005. The previous record of 13 was held by the 1968-72 Cowboys.

"We seem to finish strong," said LaDainian Tomlinson, who has run for more yards (3,888) and touchdowns (36) in December than any other player since 2000.

"We've talked about it and really made it one of our mottos. I think that has a lot to do with our mindsets in December. We want to play our best football in December going into January."

That's not the only streak the Chargers take into Cowboys Stadium. They've won seven in a row overall, taking a one-game lead over Denver atop the AFC West, and could clinch a playoff spot if they win and get a lot of help.

"We're obviously pleased about the last seven weeks and the stretch we've been on, but we're a very grounded, focused group," Philip Rivers told the Chargers' official Web site.

Rivers, the AFC leader with a 104.9 passer rating, has completed 76.0 percent of his throws for 1,066 yards with seven touchdowns and no interceptions over the last four games.

Antonio Gates has caught 15 passes for 285 yards in the last two - he's six shy of his second career 1,000-yard season - and Tomlinson has scored eight TDs in the past six.

In last Sunday's 30-23 win at Cleveland, Tomlinson passed Jim Brown for eighth place all-time with 12,321 rushing yards and became the fastest player to reach 150 touchdowns. The 30-year-old Tomlinson, who grew up about two hours from Dallas and played collegiately at TCU, will play at the Cowboys' new stadium for the first and possibly only time.

"It'll be a pretty emotional day for me, pretty much," said Tomlinson, whose only other game in Dallas came in 2001.

These teams haven't met since the Cowboys won 28-24 in San Diego on Sept. 11, 2005, to take a 6-2 lead in the all-time series.

Shaun Phillips has seven sacks during the win streak for the Chargers, who play two of their final three at home.

The Cowboys wrap up December with road games against New Orleans and Washington before closing the regular season Jan. 3 versus the Eagles.

"We've got to step up now and do something about it," Witten said. "We're at a critical point. We can't let this thing turn."