Breaking down Chargers vs. Cardinals

August, 28, 2011
8/28/11
1:25
PM ET
Random thoughts on San Diego’s 34-31 win at Arizona on Saturday night:

For the first time in the preseason, the Chargers’ starters struggled. The first two preseason games were a lark. Saturday night, the Chargers were punched in the face a few times.

The San Diego defense, which played without Antonio Garay, Shaun Phillips and Larry English, was hit hard at times. It gave up an 80-yard pass play for a touchdown. Arizona starting quarterback Kevin Kolb threw for 205 yards and Arizona starting running back Beanie Wells had 63 yards rushing.

The Cardinals took a 17-3 lead with starters from both teams in the game. The Cardinals led 24-17 at the half.

San Diego’s offense struggled early. Quarterback Philip Rivers, who was nearly flawless in the first two games, threw an interception that was returned 34 yards for a score by rookie Patrick Peterson. The San Diego first-team offense did improve as the game went on. Rivers ended up throwing for 198 yards and two touchdowns on 18-of-28 passing. Starting receivers Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd both came up with some big plays.

Rivers said after the game that it was good for San Diego to experience some difficulty in the preseason after the easy start. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I don’t put much stock in the preseason. It’s all about getting situational experience. This game will benefit the Chargers.

Rookie Ryan Mathews showed his explosiveness with a 48-yard run. He finished with 69 yards on 10 carries.

Young inside linebacker Donald Butler continued his strong summer with five tackles.

Defensive lineman Vaughn Martin had a sack. He had two sacks last week.

Backup quarterback Billy Volek showed his worth by taking his team on the game-winning 90-yard drive. While the Chargers don’t want to think about playing without Rivers, they know they have one of the NFL’s best backups in Volek.

Bill Williamson | email

ESPN Oakland Raiders reporter

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