SAN DIEGO – Philip Rivers doesn't ease up, even in a meaningless exhibition game.
The San Diego Chargers' $93 million quarterback chased Dallas Cowboys safety Barry Church for about 70 yards before making a touchdown-saving tackle after a turnover on Saturday night. He even popped the ball loose, although the play had been whistled dead.
The Cowboys (2-1) scored three plays later to tie the game, then went on to win it 16-14 on a safety with 3:46 left to play. Chargers rookie quarterback Jonathan Crompton was sacked by Victor Butler, who forced a fumble at about the 5-yard line. The ball rolled into the end zone and was recovered by San Diego rookie left tackle Ryan Otterson.
Rivers' big play stood out in a game that was otherwise a stinker.
The Chargers (1-1) committed two turnovers in their first four series. The Cowboys' first-team offense was mostly dreadful, gaining only 49 yards. Tony Romo was 4 of 11 for 30 yards with a touchdown and an interception, finishing with a rating of just 37.3.
There were overthrows, underthrows and dropped passes on both sides. Cowboys backup linebacker Jason Williams had all but intercepted a pass by Billy Volek when teammate Brandon Williams accidentally slammed into him, knocking the ball loose.
The Chargers were leading 7-0 late in the second quarter with the ball on the Cowboys 18 when Rivers threw a short pass to Darren Sproles. The running back fumbled when hit by linebacker Bradie James. Church scooped up the ball and ran up the left side of the field, weaving in and out of traffic. Rivers raced in and brought him down at the San Diego 8.
"It was just the competitor in me," said Rivers, who scored on a 1-yard sneak late in the first quarter.
"Would you expect anything else?" coach Norv Turner said.
Three plays after Church's 80-yard return, Romo threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Miles Austin to tie the game at 7.
San Diego went ahead when Marcus Mason scored on a 4-yard run late in the third quarter. The Cowboys tied it when Jon Kitna threw a 19-yard pass to Martellus Bennett early in the fourth quarter.
Rookie running back Ryan Mathews had another strong game for San Diego, gaining 53 yards on 12 carries and catching one pass for 13 yards.
Rivers was intercepted by Terence Newman on San Diego's first possession of the game. Romo gave it back six plays later when he was picked off by Eric Weddle.
"There was some good and bad," Rivers said. "We got in the end zone once. I thought we ran the ball well again."
Otterson allowed the sack that led to the game-deciding safety. It came several hours after the Chargers announced that veteran left tackle Tra Thomas retired, leaving them woefully thin at a crucial position due to Marcus McNeill's holdout.