Danny Woodhead scored an 8-yard touchdown on San Diego's opening drive and Branden Oliver added a score of his own one quarter later as the Chargers beat the Cowboys, 17-7, in the preseason opener for both teams on Thursday.
Woodhead, appearing in his first game since breaking his leg in Week 3 last season, had only the one touch as he left along with most of the starters after just one series.
"We're very fortunate to have him back," said head coach Mike McCoy of Woodhead. "He'll really help our team."
Oliver and undrafted rookie Jahwan Edwards did most of the heavy lifting for San Diego's ground game, combining for 21 carries and 106 yards against the Cowboys reserves. First-round pick Melvin Gordon found the sledding much tougher in his NFL debut, carrying six times for just 11 yards.
The passing game also struggled to find consistency after Philip Rivers (2-for-2) took an early seat. Kellen Clemens and Brad Sorensen each completed just 50 percent of his passes.
Dontrelle Inman led all receivers with a measly 15 receiving yards. He was one of just two players to finish with multiple receptions, the other being undrafted rookie TE Kyle Miller, who we touted in a recent training camp scouting report.
"We know there's going to be mistakes," McCoy said. "Now the key is how quickly we can correct those mistakes and get better."
The defense did its part, forcing two fumbles that led to both of San Diego's touchdowns.
"I thought the biggest things were the turnovers," said Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett. "We drove the ball pretty well. We had the ball for nine, 10 or 11 plays on that first drive, we make the big fourth down. Then we snap the ball over the quarterback's head and give them 40 yards on the turnover, then they go down and score. It certainly was the biggest play for the first unit."
Another encouraging sign was that young pass rushers Cordarro Law and Kyle Emanuel both recorded sacks. Those two are battling for reps behind Melvin Ingram, Jeremiah Attaochu and Tourek Williams in San Diego's suddenly green outside linebacker group. Ingram chipped in a tackle for loss while Williams added a tackle and fumble recovery.
The only points allowed on defense came via 5-yard touchdown run by undrafted rookie Gus Johnson.
Nick Novak drilled a 52-yard field goal with just over nine minutes remaining to make it a two-score game and essentially seal the outcome.
--Johnnie Troutman left the game with an arm injury. He returned to the sideline in the second half with his arm in a sling. He told our Jody Taylor after a recent practice that he has been battling an assortment of injuries throughout training camp, so perhaps some time off will help him heal up.
--Williams left the game with a foot injury, but it is not believed to be serious.
--Chris Davis suffered a concussion and will now go through the league protocol before being cleared to return. Davis stripped the ball from Cowboys punt returner Lucky Whitehead in the second quarter to set up Oliver's touchdown.
--Second-year receiver Javontee Herndon returned three punts and averaged 21 yards per return with a long of 30. Herndon has been on a roll as of late and is pushing for a spot on the 53-man roster.
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Michael Lombardo has covered the San Diego Chargers since 2003. He spent 12 years covering the team for Scout.com and has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. In addition to being publisher of SDBoltReport.com, he works as the Senior NFL Reporter for Footballinsiders.com. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter @NFLinsider_Mike.