LaRod Stephens-Howling (Petersen (Getty)
The San Diego Chargers defense kept the reigning NFC champions, the Arizona Cardinals, to a pair of field goals, while San Diego’s quarterbacks led the Chargers to 17 straight points on Saturday at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals failed to “protect the nest,” falling 17-6, but both teams kept the game’s storylines alive.
Saturday’s Chargers-Cardinals matchup featured interception happy cousins Antonio Cromartie and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. The more veteran cousin, Cromartie, was the clear winner for those keeping score. Cromartie intercepted a pass made by Pro Bowler Kurt Warner, which was intended for wide receiver powerhouse Larry Fitzgerald.
Cromartie did what his cousin aimed to do every day in training camp. The Cardinals’ Rodgers-Cromartie and Fitzgerald provided one of the fiercest one-on-one battles at camp, even leading to a bit of a tussle one day. Rodgers-Cromartie should continue to go pick-for-pick with his cousin by battling, arguably, the best receiver in the league.
Cardinals’ third-year fullback Tim Castille and Chargers defensive back Simeon Castille kept the family ties alive. The brothers, and former University of Alabama teammates, faced off for the first time in their NFL careers. The Castille brothers posted similar performances on opposites sides of the ball. Simeon registered a solo tackle, while Tim compiled 7 yards on one reception.
On the Chargers fullback front was Jacob Hester who continued to cement his role as the Chargers starting fullback. He rushed for 16 yards on two carries and caught a pass for 3 yards. Imminent backup fullback Mike Tolbert came in second, hauling in 8 yards on one carry and one reception for 8 yards. Billy Latsko, who battled with Tolbert this offseason for the backup role, didn’t make the box score.
For the Cardinals, players who dominated the box score were the Cardinals second-year running back Tim Hightower and fourth-year tight end Leonard Pope. Hightower, who is penciled in for the starting role over first-round pick Chris “Beanie” Wells, compiled 42 yards on nine attempts.
Hightower is getting the most of Wells absence (ankle). As is seventh-round pick LaRod Stephens-Howling who hauled in the opening kickoff 89 yards and later swanked a 63-yard kickoff return.
On the receiving end, Pope led the Cardinals in receiving yards (53). The tight end corps typically brings nagging headaches to the roster.
But Pope was the bright spot on Saturday, cataloging more yards than one of the best receiving units in the league. Pope’s yards were second only to Chargers WR Legedu Naanee (54 yards). The Cardinals can only hope that Pope's production will continue.
Chargers-Cardinals Extra Point
Post-game, former North Carolina State teammates Adrian Wilson and Philip Rivers exchanged autographed jerseys. Maybe this will be the year they share the Pro Bowl field and swap Pro Bowl jerseys.