GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) The chemistry that Kevin Kolb and Larry Fitzgerald keep talking about was on full display early for the Cardinals. It wasn’t enough.
They connected on an 80-yard play for the quarterback’s first touchdown pass with his new team. But San Diego’s Bryan Walters caught a 14-yard pass from Billy Volek with 3 seconds remaining to give the Chargers a 34-31 preseason victory over Arizona on Saturday night.
Volek led the Chargers’ reserves 90 yards in 12 plays to win it.
Philip Rivers completed 18 of 28 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns for the Chargers as both teams played their first units well into the third quarter. Chargers tight end Antonio Gates, in his first game since Dec. 5, caught two for 18 yards, including a 13-yarder for a touchdown.
Kolb was 11 of 20 for 205 yards with no interceptions. He completed 9 of 12 after starting the game 2 for 8. Fitzgerald caught three passes for 108 yards.
Arizona’s top draft pick Patrick Peterson intercepted Rivers’ pass and returned it 34 yards for a touchdown, and Andre Roberts scored on a 34-yard reverse for the Cardinals before the backups took over.
Arizona led 24-20 when the starters’ night ended.
Gates was happy, to say the least, to get back in action after being sidelined by a plantar fasciitis, a painful foot condition.
“It was good, man,” he said. “It was like riding a bike again. There’s still a lot of rust, but I think the best thing is just going out there getting the repetitions and see how I feel being in a live game.”
Ryan Matthews rushed for 69 yards on 10 carries, 48 of them in one run for San Diego. Beanie Wells had 63 yards on 10 attempts for the Cardinals.
The Cardinals struck for two big touchdown plays in a span of 2 minutes, 38 seconds in the first quarter. First, Kolb lofted a long pass up the middle that Fitzgerald gathered in before outrunning defenders to the end zone. It was the longest TD catch for Fitzgerald as a pro, although it doesn’t count as a career best because it came in a preseason game.
Kolb hadn’t directed a touchdown drive, let alone thrown a scoring pass, in his first two preseason games since being acquired by Arizona in a trade with Philadelphia.
“That was the first of many, hopefully,” Kolb said of the big play. “It was a no-huddle, a call on the line. We have been working on it and that is the kind of stuff we want to get to, where we can communicate things once we get up there and see what the defense is giving us.”
Kolb had been to University of Phoenix Stadium only once before, as a reserve when the Eagles lost to the Cardinals for the NFC championship in the 2008 season.
Peterson stepped in front of Gates to pick off Rivers’ pass and zigged his way past would-be tacklers put the Cardinals up 17-3 with 2:14 left in the opening period. Peterson, the fifth draft selection overall, had entered a short time earlier when cornerback Greg Toler left with a sprained left knee.
Rivers came back on the next series to direct a seven-play, 80-yard scoring drive. He was 5-for-5 for 81 yards on the series, culminated by the 13-yard TD pass to a wide open Gates.
Arizona turned to deception for its next score. After Kolb completed passes of 19, 12 and 9 yards, Roberts took a pitch from Wells on a reverse and raced 34 yards for the score to make it 24-10. The Chargers got on the board late in the half, going 70 yards in 10 plays, with Rivers tossing 3 yards to Malcom Floyd for a touchdown with 24 seconds left.
“We went out and gave up two big plays on defense,” San Diego coach Norv Turner said. “When you turn the ball over for a touchdown, you dig yourself a big hole. I liked the drive to get us back in it.”
Rich Bartel threw 6 yards to LaRod Stephens-Howling for a touchdown to give Arizona a 31-20 lead. Bartel and William Powell botched a handoff and San Diego’s Darryl Gamble picked up the ball and scored from 1 yard to cut it to 31-27.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)