Final

Chargers 20

(10-3, 6-1 away)

Cowboys 17

(8-5, 5-2 home)

Coverage: CBS

4:15 PM ET, December 13, 2009

AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX 

1 2 3 4 T
SD 7 3 0 1020
DAL 3 0 7 717

Top Performers

Passing: P. Rivers (SD) - 272 YDS, 1 TD, 1 INT

Rushing: F. Jones (DAL) - 10 CAR, 51 YDS

Receiving: V. Jackson (SD) - 7 REC, 120 YDS

Rivers saves Chargers to continue Cowboys' woes in December

Associated Press

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The December trends hold: Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers are perfect, while Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys are perfectly miserable in the most important month of the regular season.

More from ESPN.com

The bottom line was the Chargers had their opportunity to strike and they did, writes Bill Williamson. Blog


Wade Phillips was trying to avoid talk of December woes, but he's running out of answers as to why the Cowboys won't play when it counts, writes Calvin Watkins. Story


The Cowboys are a team in serious jeopardy of missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season, writes Tim MacMahon. Story

Rivers broke a fourth-quarter tie with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Gates, then followed with a drive that ate up more than 7 minutes and ended in a field goal, giving San Diego a 20-17 victory Sunday that keeps the Chargers rolling and the Cowboys reeling with the playoffs approaching.

San Diego (10-3) won its eighth straight and are on the verge of clinching the AFC West. The Chargers are 16-0 in December since Rivers became their starting quarterback.

"You don't want to fade out in December, you want to be peaking," Rivers said. "We've been able to do that the past few years. We just hadn't sustained it into January. Hopefully this will be the year we keep this thing going into 2010."

San Diego's last 11 December wins have come under Norv Turner, whom Cowboys owner Jerry Jones decided not to hire last time his head coaching job was available. Jones picked Wade Phillips instead and hasn't gotten his money's worth in December: 3-8 after this loss; he's lost a total of seven games over three Septembers, Octobers and Novembers.

Fast Facts

• The Chargers won their 16th consecutive December game, extending their NFL-record streak. San Diego has won eight straight games after starting the season 2-3.

• The Cowboys have lost six of their last seven December games dating back to 2007.

• Tony Romo fells to 5-9 as a starter in December. Romo is 0-2 in December this season despite throwing five touchdowns and no interceptions.

• LaDainian Tomlinson scored his 10th rushing touchdown of the season. It is his ninth consecutive season with at least 10 rushing scores, the most seasons in NFL history.

• Philip Rivers threw his 100th career touchdown pass, with it going to his most frequent target, Antonio Gates who has caught 29 of the 100.

• Despite the win, San Diego was held below 21 points for the first time since Week 13 of 2008.

• Bloggers' wrapups

• Rapid reaction

-- ESPN Stats & Information

Players talked all week about wanting to win to boost Phillips' job security, but they kept failing during pivotal moments on offense and defense.

Now the Cowboys (8-5) are stuck with consecutive losses for the first time this season, and are headed to New Orleans to face the undefeated Saints on Saturday night. They also might be without star linebacker DeMarcus Ware, who was hospitalized after spraining his neck during the fourth quarter.

"Even though it might not look like we're playing the best football, you can turn that around in a hurry," Romo said. "I suspect this football team will do that."

Although this game was decided late, it tilted in San Diego's favor in the first half, when the Chargers held the Cowboys to a single field goal over drives that featured first downs 16, 3 and 27 yards from the end zone.

Dallas' first good scoring chance ended with a field goal that put it ahead 3-0. On the next deep drive, Marion Barber got to the 1 on first down, then was stuffed on three straight runs. The Cowboys moved him from halfback to fullback on the fourth-down play, but it didn't fool anyone.

"He's not getting paid to block," said linebacker Tim Dobbins, who was in on all three tackles from the 1. "We knew it was going to be a flip or a dive. I don't even know what they were thinking. I don't know if they watch film or what."

Throwing from his end zone, Rivers was intercepted, giving Dallas another short field. They wasted it when Folk missed a 42-yarder, making it five straight games with a miss. He's missed more kicks this season than his first two years combined.

"You've got make a certain percentage; he's not making that percentage," Phillips said.

Dallas ended up tying it at 10 on the final play of the third quarter, with Romo capping a 99-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Miles Austin. Soon after, play was halted for several minutes because of Ware was sprawled on the turf after ramming the crown of his helmet full-speed into the leg of a San Diego lineman.

Ware flashed a 'W' with his fingers as his stretcher approached the ambulance, and 90,552 relieved fans became so loud that the Chargers had a false start before the next snap.

Forced into third-and-12 from his 47, Rivers responded with a 39-yard pass to Vincent Jackson, then the go-ahead touchdown pass to Gates on the next snap.

After Romo failed to answer, the Chargers iced the victory by using up 7:17 on a 15-play drive that ended with a 34-yard field goal by Nate Kaeding. LaDainian Tomlinson had nine of his 21 carries, and 27 of his 50 yards on that series.

"There's nothing more gratifying than to do it like that," Tomlinson said.

Trailing by 10 with 1:56 left, Romo managed to get a touchdown -- but it came with 2 seconds left. Then Gates caught an onside kick attempt, keeping Dallas from having a last-gasp chance.

"This is a bitter pill to swallow," Jones said.

Rivers was 21 of 32 for 272 yards with a touchdown -- the 100th of his career -- and the interception, his first in five games.

Jackson caught seven passes for 120 yards, and Gates had 44 yards receiving to go over 1,000 for the second time in his career.

Tomlinson ran for his 10th touchdown this season, his NFL-record-extending ninth straight year he's hit that plateau. It came in only the second game in Dallas for the Waco native who went to college at TCU in Fort Worth.

Romo was 19 of 30 for 249 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions, but still fell to 5-10 in Decembers.

He did just fine holding on field goals and extra points for the first time since his infamous flub during a playoff game in January 2007.

Game notes


Austin went over 1,000 yards for the first time in his career. ... San Diego's Kassim Osgood and Mike Scifres did a flying chest bump after Osgood stopped a punt at the 1. ... The NFL debut of a 3D, in-house video was scrapped after just 6:50, drawing one of the largest cheers of the day.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Team Stat Comparison

 
SD
DAL
1st Downs2122
Passing 1st downs
1512
Rushing 1st downs
59
1st downs from Penalties
11
3rd down efficiency
5-121-8
4th down efficiency
1-11-2
Total Plays6458
Total Yards341347
Yards per play5.36.0
Total Drives99
Passing268239
Comp - Att
21-3219-30
Yards per pass
8.48.0
Interceptions thrown
10
Sacks - Yards Lost
1-41-10
Rushing73108
Rushing Attempts
3127
Yards per rush
2.44.0
Red Zone (Made-Att)2-42-4
Penalties5-246-68
Turnovers10
Fumbles lost
00
Interceptions thrown
10
Defensive / Special Teams TDs00
Possession30:0529:55

Passing Leaders

SDC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Rivers21/322728.5111-4
DALC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Romo19/302498.3201-10

Rushing Leaders

SDCARYDSAVGTDLG
Tomlinson21502.4111
Sproles7223.106
DALCARYDSAVGTDLG
Jones10515.1012
Barber14473.4010

Receiving Leaders

SDRECYDSAVGTDLGTGTS
Jackson712017.103911
Gates44411.01145
DALRECYDSAVGTDLGTGTS
Williams47418.50258
Austin67111.81218

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERSDDAL
dalFG08:36Nick Folk 31 Yd 03
sdTD04:30LaDainian Tomlinson 1 Yd Run (Nate Kaeding Kick) 73
SECOND QUARTERSDDAL
sdFG10:18Nate Kaeding 29 Yd 103
THIRD QUARTERSDDAL
dalTD00:00Miles Austin 6 Yd Pass From Tony Romo (Nick Folk Kick) 1010
FOURTH QUARTERSDDAL
sdTD10:56Antonio Gates 14 Yd Pass From Philip Rivers (Nate Kaeding Kick) 1710
sdFG01:56Nate Kaeding 34 Yd 2010
dalTD00:02Patrick Crayton 9 Yd Pass From Tony Romo (Nick Folk Kick) 2017