SAN DIEGO - Team was the theme for the San Diego Chargers, who held the Dallas Cowboys scoreless in the second half for a 30-21 victory Sunday before a crowd of 68,601 at Qualcomm Stadium.
"An outstanding team effort," Chargers coach Mike McCoy said. "That's what this game is all about. I'm proud of the football team and the coaches."
Quarterback Philip Rivers passed for three touchdowns and 401 yards, but it was the San Diego defense that was the talk of the locker room after it pitched a shutout in the second half.
"They did a good job," said Dallas quarterback Tony Romo, who completed 27 of 37 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns. "We had way too many missed opportunities more than anything. We had a few different times we could have moved the chains that would have put us into a third-down situation, (but) we didn't throw and catch like we needed to. That hurt. A couple of the penalties pushed us back. And then we've got to finish on that last opportunity to get into the end zone."
The dagger for the Cowboys came on their final possession, when they had a first-and-goal at the Chargers' 7 with 2:50 remaining. Romo hit Terrance Williams with a short pass at the 2, but Williams, as he was being tackled by Eric Weddle, tried to stretch into the end zone. He fumbled into the end zone instead, where Chargers cornerback Richard Marshall scooped it up.
San Diego proceeded to run out the clock and earn its third decision over the Cowboys in the past four meeting.
"Guys stepped up," Rivers said.
Rivers helped seal the win on a 56-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Gates with 6:54 remaining, capping the scoring and handing the Cowboys (2-2) a disappointing setback. Gates finished with 10 catches for 136 yards.
"We've got to get better," said Dallas running back DeMarco Murray, who finished with 70 yards rushing on 14 carries. "I thought we had a lot of positives in this game. We didn't have a lot of opportunities, but on the same side we have to capitalize on every opportunity we get. We didn't do that."
The Chargers (2-2) outgained the Cowboys 506-317 in total offense and owned an advantage in ball control at 34:03 to 25:57. Dallas had the ball for only 3:23 of the third quarter.
"They are a great offensive football team," said Dallas linebacker Sean Lee, who returned an interception for a 52-yard touchdown to stake the Cowboys to a 21-10 lead and recorded 15 tackles and assisted on three more. "They played well. They made some big plays in the second half that hurt us."
The Chargers opened the second half with their best series of the game, driving 80 yards in 10 plays and finishing with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Rivers to Danny Woodhead, who had five receptions for 54 yards and two touchdowns, and pulling them to within 21-20 with 9:39 remaining in the third quarter.
San Diego got a 23-yard field goal from Nick Novak before Rivers and Gates hooked up to close the deal.
San Diego scored first. Rivers hit Danny Woodhead on a 26-yard scoring pass for a 7-0 San Diego lead with 7:05 left in the first quarter, capping a 65-yard drive in five plays. A 32-yard pass from Rivers to rookie wide receiver Keenan Allen, giving the Chargers a first down at the Dallas 32, helped set up the score.
The Cowboys tied it early in the second quarter, marching 85 yards in nine plays, as Romo connected with Dez Bryant on a 5-yard touchdown pass with 13:10 left in the second.
A 56-yard field goal by Dan Bailey sailed wide left, giving the Chargers possession at their own 46 with 7:38 remaining in the half. San Diego took advantage of it, driving to the Dallas' 18 and getting a 36-yard field goal by Nick Novak for a 10-7 lead with 5:11 remaining in the second.
The Cowboys took the lead, though, when Romo connected with Bryant for a 34-yard touchdown pass and 14-10 advantage with 2:44 remaining in the half.
Dallas defensive tackle Jason Hatcher forced a San Diego turnover by hitting Rivers as he attempted a pass and allowing middle linebacker Sean Lee to pick it off and return it a 52 yards for a touchdown and 21-10 lead with 1:19 left in the half.
A 42-yard Novak field goal ended the half, cutting the Cowboys' lead to 21-13.
Chargers' rookie inside linebacker Manti Te'o made his pro debut Sunday. Te'o, who had missed the previous three games with a foot injury, finished with three tackles.
NOTES: Chargers outside linebacker Dwight Freeney left the game with a quad injury in the second quarter and did not return. ... The Cowboys are 6-4 overall against the Chargers and 5-2 in San Diego. ... A moment of silence was observed before the game for former Chargers safety Paul Oliver, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot Tuesday night in Marietta, Ga.