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Nick Novak's four field goals boots Chargers over Cardinals

SAN DIEGO -- As third-string quarterback Brad Sorensen took a knee in victory formation with more than a minute left, the few thousand Chargers fans still in the stadium began to boo.

There were no touchdowns, no starters, no overwhelming importance to the Chargers' 12-9 victory against the Arizona Cardinals.

The teams meet again in the season opener on Sept. 8, in the second half of a Monday Night Football doubleheader, so there was no need to tip off anything. This was about deciding final roster spots and giving the first-teamers a breather going into the games that count.

Trips inside the 20-yard line were rare, leaving the field goal kickers to fight it out.

San Diego's Nick Novak was good from 35, 39, 55 and 37 yards.

Arizona's Chandler Catanzaro kicked field goals of 42, 38 and 35 yards.

Rosters have to be cut down by Saturday.

"We were trying to find the best 53. That was our No. 1 goal coming out of this game," Chargers coach Mike McCoy said. "That was what it was all about. It's about winning.

"The thing is trying to be consistent as a football team week in and week out. That is what we're trying to do, build that winning culture week in and week out and compete every Sunday. That is what the game is all about. Give yourself the opportunity to win sometime in the fourth quarter."

The game will help Arizona coach Bruce Arians make up his mind on certain players.

"I was pleased with a couple and very disturbed with some others," he said. "They made the choices easy."

Leading 9-3, the Chargers went for it on fourth-and-goal from the 2 with 2 seconds left in the first half, but Kellen Clemens' pass to Dontrelle Inman was intercepted by Jimmy Legree, who returned it 68 yards before being dragged down on a horse-collar tackle by Inman.

That gave Arizona the ball at the San Diego 20 and Catanzaro kicked a 38-yarder to pull within three.

San Diego's Torrence Allen fumbled the second half kickoff and Arizona's Jalen Parmale recovered. Arizona got to the San Diego 12, but had to settle for Catanzaro's tying 35-yard field goal.

"The one thing that was disturbing was obviously what happened at the beginning of the second half, which determined the outcome of the game. We came out and make a great play on the kickoff, get the fumble and don't knock it in."

Chargers rookie Tevin Reese had a rough game with several drops. He also fumbled in the third quarter, but center Khalil Wilkes recovered and Novak kicked the go-ahead, 37-yard field goal on the next play.

"Unfortunately, we kicked way too many field goals," McCoy said. "But, hey, we knew if we had a long one, we were going to give him an opportunity to do it. I wanted him to get a long one."

Arizona rookie quarterback Logan Thomas played the whole game. He completed 9 of 21 passes for 73 yards. He was intercepted by rookie Alden Darby in the closing minutes, giving the Chargers the ball on the Arizona 17.

"Just very, very average. You can't take a sack at the 1-yard line," Arians said, referring to when Thomas was dropped at the Arizona 3 early in the game. "Either throw it away or get it to the check-down. It was a good learning experience for him."

Clemens, San Diego's backup quarterback, was 14 of 25 for 158 yards.

San Diego rookie Marion Grice, a sixth-round draft pick competing for the fourth running back spot, gained 79 yards on 17 carries. Branden Oliver, an undrafted rookie, had 71 yards on 16 carries.

NOTES: Arians said LB Eddie Whitley might have a broken foot and S Curtis Taylor might have a broken arm. He said OL Nate Potter has a shoulder injury. .. Chargers LB Thomas Keiser, battling for a roster spot, went to the locker room at one point but returned to the game.

Copyright 2014 by The Associated Press

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