SAN DIEGO – For one game, at least, Philip Rivers was unstoppable running Mike McCoy's no-huddle offense.
Rivers threw for 401 yards and three touchdowns, including a 56-yarder to Antonio Gates that helped the Chargers beat the Dallas Cowboys 30-21 Sunday.
Rivers' big day ensured the Chargers (2-2) wouldn't blow late leads like they did in their two losses. On Sunday, they scored the final 20 points to beat Dallas (2-2).
"I feel in sync. I have a rhythm and I'm comfortable in the pocket when we get that no-huddle going," Rivers said. "It's big being 2-2 instead of 1-3. I know we've been there before but it's tough to dig yourself out of 1-3, especially when you're playing with young guys and guys you didn't expect to be in there. They can gain confidence off games like this."
Here are five reasons why the Chargers beat the Cowboys:
RIVERS ROLLS: Running a no-huddle, no-hurry offense, Rivers gets to the line of scrimmage with roughly 20 seconds left on the play clock, enough time to read the defense and check into a different play, if necessary. It's a luxury he didn't have in Norv Turner's offense. Rivers completed 35 of 42 passes, his final TD pass, to Gates, being the 200th of his career. After having three 400-yard games in his previous nine seasons, Rivers has two in this year's four games. Rivers' 83.3-percent completion rate was the highest in NFL history for a 400-yard passing game. The previous mark was 81.8 percent (36 of 44) by San Francisco's Jeff Garcia against Chicago on Dec. 17, 2000. After 35 interceptions the past two seasons, Rivers has been picked off only twice so far while throwing 11 touchdown passes.
THE RALLY: San Diego trailed 21-10 when Nick Novak kicked a 42-yard field goal as the first-half clock expired. The Chargers took the opening kickoff of the second half and Rivers moved them 80 yards, capping the drive with a 13-yard pass to Woodhead to pull to 21-20. The Chargers managed to cut the Cowboys' lead to one point and Dallas didn't touch the ball in that span. The way Rivers ran the offense, the Cowboys didn't have a chance to come back. They ran only seven offensive plays in the third quarter. Dallas didn't have its second possession of the second half until the fourth quarter.
DANNY WOODHEAD: The Chargers seem to have found that long-sought replacement for Darren Sproles. Woodhead caught two touchdown passes in a game for the first time in his six-year career. He also had a 26-yarder in the first quarter. "That's part of being a running back in the NFL," Woodhead said. "You have to be able to do everything."
ANTONIO GATES: The star tight end's 56-yard TD catch was his longest reception since Dec. 6, 2009, at Cleveland. He had 10 catches for 136 yards. Gates has 665 career catches and passed Hall of Fame tight end Ozzie Newsome for the fourth-most receptions by a tight end in NFL history. Gates was on the receiving end of Rivers' 200th career touchdown pass, just as he was for Rivers' 100th-career touchdown pass against the Cowboys on Dec. 13, 2009. Said Gates of the 56-yard scoring pass: " The way he threw that ball, he put it in the right place and I was able to make the play," Gates said.
BIG STOP: San Diego's defense came up with a big stop in the final moments. Tony Romo moved the Cowboys to the San Diego 7, where he hit Terrance Williams at the 1. Williams was stretching for the end zone when he was hit by Crezdon Butler and fumbled. 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. "I saw that the ball was a little loose. We learn as a kid you can put a hit on the ball and it comes out," Butler said. "I had no idea he lost it. Then I rolled over and I saw Marshall had it."
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org