Rookie Helps Lead the Charge

Heather OMalley

Philip Rivers found plenty of open wide receivers against the Houston Texans' pass defense on Sunday.

The NFL's leading passer threw four touchdowns against the league's worst pass defense, and the San Diego Chargers earned their first road win of the season in beating the Houston Texans 29-23.

San Diego tight end Antonio Gates, the NFL's third-leading receiver, was inactive with a torn plantar fascia in his right foot. Rivers hardly missed him, using eight different receivers.

Rivers completed 17 of 23 passes for 295 yards. He came in with 2,649 yards passing, an NFL record through the first eight games.

Rookie Seyi Ajirotutu and backup tight end Randy McMichael caught two touchdown passes apiece. Ajirotutu was just moved up to the active roster on Oct. 23, when linebacker Kion Wilson went on injured reserve.

The Chargers (4-5) head into their bye week on their first two-game winning streak of the season.

Arian Foster rushed 27 times for 127 yards and two touchdowns for the Texans (4-4), who've dropped three of their past four home games.

The Texans twice failed on fourth down in the second half in blowing a 23-14 lead.

McMichael's second TD catch cut the lead to 23-21 with 5:55 left in the third quarter, and the Chargers stuffed Foster on a fourth-and-1 from the 17 early in the final quarter.

Rookie Kareem Jackson has taken much of the blame for the Texans' 32nd-ranked pass defense, but he intercepted Rivers' pass to Ajirotutu near midfield with about 12 minutes left.

Rivers atoned on the next possession, throwing over Jackson for a 28-yard touchdown pass to Ajirotutu with 5:23 left. Mike Tolbert jumped over the pile for a 2-point conversion to give San Diego a 29-23 lead.

The Texans' offense stalled twice in San Diego territory in the final five minutes.

Referee Mike Carey flagged Matt Schaub for intentional grounding on a pass on third down, backing up Houston to the Chargers 48. Tight end Joel Dreessen caught a 13-yard pass and slid down just short of the marker and San Diego stopped Schaub's sneak attempt on fourth-and-1.

The Texans used their timeouts and forced a punt. Foster took a screen pass and gained 33 yards to the San Diego 39 just before the two-minute warning.

On second down, the usually sure-handed Andre Johnson couldn't handle Schaub's pass, and the ball ricocheted off his knee and into the hands of safety Paul Oliver. Officials upheld the interception after a replay review, and Rivers kneeled down to run out the clock.

The Chargers improved to 4-0 against the Texans after starting the game with the kind of special teams blunders that have hurt them all season.

Oliver caught the opening kickoff and inexplicably stepped out of bounds at the San Diego 4. Texans linebacker Stanford Keglar then deflected Mike Scifres' punt, and Houston recovered at the Chargers 8.

It was the fifth San Diego punt blocked or deflected this season, and Foster scored on the next snap.

Ajirotutu then sprinted past Jackson on a 55-yard touchdown pass from Rivers, the eighth reception covering more than 40 yards this season against Houston's secondary.

After Neil Rackers kicked a 27-yard field goal, Rivers caught a lateral from Darren Sproles and found backup tight end Kris Wilson for a 37-yard gain. Rivers threw an 11-yard TD pass to McMichael, and San Diego took a 14-10 lead.

Ryan Mathews fumbled near midfield early in the second quarter, and Glover Quin recovered for Houston. It was the Chargers' AFC-leading 20th turnover and only the third fumble recovery for the Texans this season.

Foster finished that drive with a 2-yard touchdown run. He rushed for 99 yards in the first half, but had an apparent TD catch nullified by review in the final minute.

Foster seemed to control Schaub's pass on third down, but the ball fell out of his hand as he tumbled into the end zone. Rackers kicked a 21-yard field goal just before halftime, and a 25-yarder early in the third quarter for a 23-14 lead.

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