ARLINGTON, Texas - Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers remain perfect in Decembers. Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys remain perfectly miserable in the most important month of the regular season.
Rivers bailed the Chargers out of trouble with several third-down throws and hit Antonio Gates for a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter, lifting San Diego to a 20-17 victory over the Cowboys that continues December trends for both clubs.
"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."
San Diego (10-3) won its eighth straight and is on the verge of a playoff berth. The Chargers also won their 16th straight in December, all with Rivers - and the last 11 under coach Norv Turner, whom Cowboys owner Jerry Jones decided not to hire last time his coaching job was open.
Jones hired Wade Phillips instead, and hasn't gotten his money's worth in December: 3-8 after this loss, which is Dallas' second straight. Players talked all week about wanting to win to boost Phillips' job security, but the Cowboys (8-5) have now dropped consecutive games. They'll carry that skid into a game at undefeated New Orleans on Saturday night.
They also may not have pass-rushing star DeMarcus Ware, who sprained his neck and was taken off the field on a cart early in the fourth quarter. The Cowboys said Ware was "aware and alert with full movement and strength in his extremities" when he was taken off the field.
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, leaving them facing third and 12 from their 47 with the game tied at 10.
Rivers then hit Vincent Jackson for 39 yards and followed with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Gates. The Chargers later iced the victory by using up 7 minutes, 17 seconds on a 15-play drive that ended with a 34-yard field goal by Nate Kaeding.
Romo was 19 of 30 for 249 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions. In contrast, Rivers was 21 of 32 for 272 yards with a touchdown pass - the 100th of his career - and an interception.
San Diego 7 3 0 10 – 20
Dallas 3 0 7 7 – 17
Dal–FG Folk 31, 8:36.
SD–Tomlinson 1 run (Kaeding kick), 4:30.
SD–FG Kaeding 29, 10:18.
Dal–Austin 6 pass from Romo (Folk kick), :00.
SD–Gates 14 pass from Rivers (Kaeding kick), 10:56.
SD–FG Kaeding 34, 1:56.
Dal–Crayton 9 pass from Romo (Folk kick), :02.
First downs 21 22
Total Net Yards 341 347
Rushes-yards 31-73 27-108
Passing 268 239
Punt Returns 2-18 0-0
Kickoff Returns 2-42 4-93
Interceptions Ret. 0-0 1-0
Comp-Att-Int 21-32-1 19-30-0
Sacked-Yards Lost 1-4 1-10
Punts 3-42.0 3-56.3
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 1-0
Penalties-Yards 5-24 6-68
Time of Possession 30:05 29:55
Rushing: San Diego, Tomlinson 21-50, Sproles 7-22, Rivers 3-1. Dallas, Jones 10-51, Barber 14-47, Choice 2-11, Romo 1-(minus 1).
Passing: San Diego, Rivers 21-32-1-272. Dallas, Romo 19-30-0-249.
Receiving: San Diego, Jackson 7-120, Gates 4-44, Floyd 3-40, Tolbert 3-19, Wilson 1-21, Naanee 1-16, Tomlinson 1-9, Sproles 1-3. Dallas, Austin 6-71, R.Williams 4-74, Witten 4-49, Crayton 2-31, Barber 2-22, Jones 1-2.
Missed Field Goals: Dallas, Folk 42 (WL).