SAN DIEGO — A dropped pass by wide-open Earl Ferrell at the goal line Sunday kept the St. Louis Cardinals from completing their second straight rousing comeback.
The Cardinals scored 24 straight points in the second half but dropped a 28-24 defeat to the San Diego Chargers.
"We just got too far down," Cardinals Coach Gene Stallings said. "We were 14 down before you could blink your eyes. We showed a lot of character."
The Cardinals, who rallied for three touchdowns in the fourth quarter last week to defeat Dallas, scored 10 points in the third quarter on a 38-yard field goal by Jim Gallery and an 8-yard touchdown pass from Neil Lomax to Roy Green. St. Louis, 1-1, added two touchdowns in the fourth quarter on Lomax scoring passes of 21 yards to Jay Novacek and 18 yards to Stump Mitchell.
Lomax, however, threw three incomplete passes from the Chargers 5-yard line, including a fourth-down toss that Ferrell dropped at the goal line.
"The bottom line is, they had four chances to score from inside the 20 and didn't," said Chargers Coach Al Saunders, whose his high-powered offense was shut out in the second half.
Lomax completed 31 of 61 passes for 457. Dan Fouts was 13 of 19 for 152 yards for the Chargers, 1-1.
Lionel James scored on an 81-yard punt return in the first quarter and raced 7 yards around left end late in the second quarter to help the Chargers jump to a 28-0 lead at halftime.
The opportunistic Chargers built a 14-0 lead early in the first quarter on James's punt return and a 5-yard TD run by Gary Anderson.
James scurried right and then weaved his way up the sideline with a Greg Cater punt 2:35 into the game.
On St. Louis' ensuing possession, Lomax fumbled a shotgun snap and linebacker Billy Ray Smith recovered at the Cardinals 15. Four plays later, Anderson broke left and made it a 14-0 game at 5:24.
The best the Cardinals could do in the first quarter was a 29-yard field goal attempt by Gallery that sailed wide right.
The Chargers went ahead 21-0 early in the second quarter when Fouts directed an 80-yard drive that produced a 26-yard touchdown reception by Wes Chandler in double-coverage. Chandler, who had no receptions last week, was able to peel away from Cedric Mack and John Preston with the help of a pump fake by Fouts.
With third-and-10 at the San Diego 11, Lomax muffed another shotgun snap and forced Gallery, the sixth kicker signed by the Cardinals since 1985, to try a 42-yard kick, which went wide left.
The Chargers took a 28-0 lead with 1:28 left in the half on a 7-yard run by James on the first play after Smith intercepted a Lomax pass and returned 5 yards.
Lomax capitalized on San Diego's second turnover of the game -- an interception by Mack -- to cut the Chargers' lead to 28-7 with 6:43 left in the third quarter. Lomax spotted Green in the left corner of the end zone with a step on Gil Byrd and tossed 8 yards for Green's third scoring reception in two games.
Gallery kicked a 38-yard field goal to pull the Chargers within 28-10 with two seconds left in the third period.
Lomax threw 21 yards to Novacek to cut the San Diego lead to 28-17 at 7:35 of the final quarter. It was Novacker's first scoring catch in his three-year career.