By JAIME ARON, AP Sports Writer
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — 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.
San Diego (10-3) won its eighth straight and are 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 head coaching job was available.
He 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 his job security, but the Cowboys (8-5) have now dropped consecutive games for the first time this season. They’ll carry that skid and sinking playoff hopes 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. 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. After Dallas 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.
Romo threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Patrick Crayton with 2 seconds left to tighten up the final score.
On San Diego’s first drive, Rivers also was facing third-and-12, although from his 14, when he Malcolm Floyd for a 24-yard gain. LaDainian Tomlinson ended up capping that series with a 1-yard touchdown, putting the Chargers ahead 7-3. They never trailed again.
The Cowboys hurt themselves by failing to get any points out of second-quarter drives that reached the San Diego 1 and 24.
Dallas had first-and-goal from the 3, then three snaps from the 1, and the Chargers stopped Marion Barber every time. Rivers threw an interception on the ensuing possession, giving the ball to Romo at the 27, but the Cowboys had to settle for a 42-yard field goal try. Nick Folk missed – despite no problems from his new holder, Romo.
This was the fifth straight game Folk missed a kick. It was Romo’s first time holding since his infamous flub during a playoff game in January 2007.
Romo was 19 of 30 for 249 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions. He also fell to 5-10 in Decembers. Miles Austin caught six passes for 71 yards and a touchdown, and went over 1,000 yards for the first time in his career.
Rivers was 21 of 32 for 272 yards with a touchdown – the 100th of his career – and an 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’s touchdown was his 10th this season, his NFL-record-extending ninth straight year he’s hit that plateau. This one was special because it came in only the second game played in Dallas; he grew up in nearby Waco and went to college at TCU in Fort Worth.
Dallas had won five straight at its new $1.2 billion stadium since losing the first-ever game here.
The game also featured the NFL debut of a 3D, in-house video, with fans given 3D glasses as they entered. It was supposed to be for the entire second half, but such few people bothered with it that the humongous video boards went back to plain ol’ 2D, HD just 6:50 after the experiment began. The change drew one of the largest cheers of the game.