SAN DIEGO -- Once the starters were gone, the Arizona Cardinals turned an exhibition stinker into an exciting game.
Justin Lucas returned an interception 41 yards for a touchdown midway through the third quarter and Damien Anderson had an 82-yard run as the Cardinals beat the Chargers 16-10 Saturday night.
"At halftime, I challenged them to make it a football game," Arizona coach Dave McGinnis said.
The Cardinals (2-0) came within 2:22 of their second straight shutout. They beat the Dallas Cowboys 13-0 a week earlier.
"We're 2-0," McGinnis said. "That's what you try to do - win games and develop a team."
Emmitt Smith suited up but didn't play, spending the game on the Cardinals' sideline wearing a baseball cap and talking to teammates.
LaDainian Tomlinson played two days after taking himself out of practice at the Chargers' hot and humid training camp in Carson, an industrial suburb of Los Angeles. He carried twice for 14 yards and caught one pass for 6 yards.
It's taken the Chargers (0-2) until the fourth quarter to find the end zone in their first two exhibitions. Fourth-stringer Cleo Lemon threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to rookie free agent Grant Mattos with 2:22 left.
With the score tied at 3, Lucas, a fifth-year safety, picked off third-stringer Seth Burford and ran it back untouched with 8:27 left in the third quarter.
The Chargers ran a double slant and Lucas stayed on the outside receiver.
"He threw it right in my chest," Lucas said. "That was definitely the spark we needed."
Said Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer: "When you throw them a ball for an uncontested touchdown, it always makes it tough to overcome."
Chargers rookie Mike Scifres had a 50-yard punt that was downed at the Arizona 2, but on the first play of the Cardinals drive, Anderson broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage and raced 82 yards before being caught from behind by rookie Drayton Florence.
Bill Gramatica capped the drive with a 31-yard field goal for a 13-3 lead with 4:43 left in the third. Gramatica kicked a 22-yarder early in the fourth quarter.
Burford was sacked five times in the third quarter. Quentin Harris intercepted Lemon's pass at the Arizona 1 late in the fourth quarter.
The Chargers didn't have much trouble moving the ball in the first half. They just couldn't score touchdowns.
"We moved the ball effectively but you don't get any medals for yards gained," coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "We've got to find a way to finish those drives."
After Eric Parker's 93-yard punt return for a touchdown was nullified by a holding penalty against Quentin Jammer, the Chargers started the drive on their 4. Drew Brees led them on a 16-play drive that stalled at the Arizona 12, and Steve Christie kicked a 30-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.
"We had a lot of yards. We just need the points," Brees said.
"It was just a little taste of what everybody is expecting from us," Tomlinson said of the long drive. "It felt like we were putting it together, when we just marched right down the field."
The Cardinals came right back and tied it on Tim Duncan's 39-yard field goal.
Chargers backup quarterback Doug Flutie threw a 42-yard pass to Tim Dwight on third-and-15, following consecutive false-start penalties against San Diego
Chargers free safety Kwamie Lassiter got in a shot against his old team, but it cost him a 15-yard personal foul in the second quarter for a helmet-to-helmet hit on tight end Steve Bush, who left with a concussion.
Lassiter, bitter that the Cardinals didn't want to keep him after eight seasons, signed with the Chargers as a free agent.
Arizona defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch tore ligaments in his left knee and will have an MRI. Cornerback Michael Stone left with a concussion.
Chargers backup running back Jesse Chatman left with a concussion late in the first quarter. Linebacker Jude Waddy sprained his right foot.
|FG||Steve Christie 30 Yd, 1:43. Drive: 16 plays, 84 yards in 10:04.|
|FG||Tim Duncan 39 Yd, 11:58. Drive: 9 plays, 53 yards in 4:45.|
|TD||Justin Lucas, 41 Yd interception return (Bill Gramatica kick is good), 8:27.|
|FG||Bill Gramatica 31 Yd, 4:43. Drive: 5 plays, 85 yards in 2:17.|
|FG||Bill Gramatica 22 Yd, 10:04. Drive: 13 plays, 66 yards in 6:48.|
|TD||Grant Mattos, 35 Yd pass from Cleo Lemon (MacKenzie Hoambrecker kick is good), 2:22. Drive: 3 plays, 57 yards in 1:06.|
|Complete Player Stats|