SAN DIEGO — Philip Rivers and the rest of the San Diego Chargers made sure they didn’t let a fourth-quarter lead slip away against the Dallas Cowboys.
Rivers threw for 401 yards and three touchdowns, including a 56-yarder to Antonio Gates, and the San Diego Chargers rallied to beat the Cowboys 30-21 Sunday.
The Chargers (2-2) had blown late leads in their two losses this season. On Sunday, they scored the final 20 points to beat Dallas (2-2).
Rivers’ biggest pass wasn’t necessarily his prettiest. He short-armed a pass over the middle to Gates, who slid behind linebacker Sean Lee to haul it in and score with 6:54 to go.
Lee had intercepted Rivers on a deflected pass and returned it 52 yards for a touchdown and a 21-10 lead late in the second quarter. Dallas didn’t score again.
San Diego’s defense came up with a big stop in the final moments. Romo moved the Cowboys to the San Diego 7, where he hit Terrance Williams at the 1. Williams was tackled by safety Eric Weddle and was stretching for the end zone when he was hit by Crezdon Butler and fumbled. The ball bounced into the end zone, where San Diego’s Richard Marshall recovered for a touchback.
A week earlier, Butler was burned on a 34-yard touchdown pass from Jake Locker to Justin Hunter with 15 seconds to play to give Tennessee a 20-17 victory. Butler was in against the Cowboys because Derek Cox left with a knee injury.
Rivers completed 35 of 42 passes.
Romo threw two touchdown passes to Dez Bryant.
Chargers running back Danny Woodhead had two TDs receiving in a game for the first time in his six-year career. He caught a 26-yarder midway through the first quarter and a 13-yarder midway through the third.
San Diego trailed 21-10 when Nick Novak started the comeback with a 42-yard field goal as the first-half clock expired.
Woodhead’s second TD catch, a 13-yarder, pulled the Chargers to 21-20 midway through the third quarter.
After forcing Dallas to punt, San Diego took a 23-21 lead on Novak’s 23-yard field goal that capped a drive that started on the Chargers 11.
The Cowboys scored 21 points in the second quarter. Bryant outjumped Marshall to bring in a 5-yard pass from Romo on the fourth play of the quarter. After San Diego went ahead 10-7 on Novak’s 36-yard field goal, Bryant caught a short pass from Romo on a crossing route and turned it into a 34-yard touchdown.
Five plays into the next Chargers drive, Rivers was hit by tackle Jason Hatcher as he released the ball and it floated to Lee. He returned it down the right sideline, just barely staying inbounds. The play was upheld on review, giving Dallas a 21-10 lead.
San Diego came back on a 42-yard field goal by Novak as the first-half clock expired, and on Rivers’ 13-yard touchdown pass to Woodhead on the opening drive of the second half.
Chargers linebacker Manti Te’o made his NFL debut. He’d been out since spraining his right foot in the exhibition opener Aug. 8.
The Chargers were without three injured offensive linemen: left tackle King Dunlap, left guard Chad Rinehart and right guard Jeromey Clary.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org