GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Kevin Kolb was the new guy in town, offering a glimpse of what he expects to bring to the Arizona Cardinals. Philip Rivers overcame an early mistake to put on the prolific show that is always expected of him.
In the end, both coaches came away mostly satisfied with their teams' performance in the San Diego Chargers' 34-31 preseason victory Saturday night.
Arizona led nearly the entire game before backup Billy Volek threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Bryan Walters with 3 seconds to play to give San Diego the victory. Volek led the Chargers' reserves 90 yards in 12 plays to win it.
"It was a wild game," San Diego coach Norv Turner said. "We gave up a couple of big plays early, the interception return, we dug our selves in a hole. I like the way our guys handled it on the sideline and I liked the way they responded getting it to a one touchdown game at the half. The young guys at the end of the game I like the way they finished the game and found a way to win the game."
Kolb and Larry Fitzgerald, in a play called at the line of scrimmage, connected on an 80-yarder for the quarterback's first touchdown pass with his new team.
Rivers completed 18 of 28 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns for the Chargers as both teams played their first units well into the third quarter. Chargers tight end Antonio Gates, in his first game since Dec. 5, caught two passes for 18 yards, including a 13-yarder for a touchdown.
Kolb was 11 of 20 for 205 yards with no interceptions. He completed 9 of 12 after starting the game 2 for 8. Fitzgerald caught three passes for 108 yards.
Patrick Peterson, Arizona's top draft pick, intercepted Rivers' pass and returned it 34 yards for a touchdown, and Andre Roberts scored on a 34-yard reverse for the Cardinals before the backups took over.
Arizona led 24-20 when the starters' night ended with about five minutes left in the third quarter.
"We missed some things," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "There's some things that we'll learn from this tape. But I was very pleased, obviously, in moving the ball and makings some plays."
Gates was happy, to say the least, to get back in action after being sidelined by plantar fasciitis, a painful foot condition.
"It was good, man," he said. "It was like riding a bike again. There's still a lot of rust, but I think the best thing is just going out there getting the repetitions and see how I feel being in a live game."
Ryan Matthews rushed for 69 yards on 10 carries, 48 of them in one run for San Diego. Beanie Wells had 63 yards on 10 attempts for the Cardinals.
The Cardinals struck for two big touchdown plays in a span of 2:38 in the first quarter. First, Kolb lofted a long pass up the middle that Fitzgerald gathered in before outrunning defenders to the end zone. It was the longest TD catch for Fitzgerald as a pro, although it doesn't count as a career best because it came in a preseason game.
Kolb hadn't directed a touchdown drive, let alone thrown a scoring pass, in his first two preseason games since being acquired by Arizona in a trade with Philadelphia.
"The touchdown was a unique play," Kolb said. "We actually made that adjustment at the line. Obviously, those coaches were pretty pleased with us communicating like that. I've said the sky's the limit for our offense, because the more that I can take on and be able to communicate with those guys, the better we're going to be.
"I think you can see whenever we execute and we don't kill ourselves how many times we can put drives together and go put it in the end zone."
Kolb had been to University of Phoenix Stadium only once before, as a reserve when the Eagles lost to the Cardinals for the NFC championship in the 2008 season.
Peterson stepped in front of Gates to pick off Rivers' pass and zigged his way past would-be tacklers put the Cardinals up 17-3 with 2:14 left in the opening period.
"I was screaming all the way to the end zone," said the rookie cornerback, the fifth selection overall, who had entered a short time earlier when cornerback Greg Toler left with a sprained left knee.
Rivers came back on the next series to direct a seven-play, 80-yard scoring drive. He was 5 for 5 for 81 yards on the series, culminated by the 13-yard TD pass to a wide open Gates.
"Throwing an interception for a touchdown is not good, but that is football and you have to be able to bounce back," Rivers said. "I thought for the most part we did. We came right back and answered with two scores but there a lot of errors and I can improve. "
Arizona turned to deception for its third touchdown. After Kolb completed passes of 19, 12 and 9 yards, Roberts took a pitch from Wells on a reverse and raced 34 yards for the score to make it 24-10. The Chargers got on the board again late in the half, going 70 yards in 10 plays, with Rivers tossing 3 yards to Malcom Floyd for a touchdown with 24 seconds left.
By BOB BAUM, Associated Press