Chargers head to Kansas City after a tough loss to the Cowboys By
October 19, 2023
It is still early in the season, but Monday Night's matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and the Los Angeles Chargers was considered by many as a must-win for both teams. Both teams had lost two games in the first five weeks, and both had struggled at times. Both teams were expected to make the playoffs, and both have hopes for competing for a conference title. It did not go well for the Chargers, who once again could not put a complete game together.
The Cowboys played and looked like the better team in defeating the Chargers, 20-17 at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood last Monday night. The Chargers took a quick 7-0 lead on a one-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Justin Herbert to wide receiver Keenan Allen with 10:31 remaining in the first quarter. The touchdown was set up by a 26-yard punt return by Derrius Davis, a 15-yard completion to tight end Gerald Everett and a 28-yard screen pass to running back Austin Ekeler. The Chargers were off to a good start.
Unfortunately for the Chargers and their fans, the Cowboys took control after that. Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott completed 21 of 30 passes for 272 yards and one touchdown. Prescott also led the Cowboys in rushing yardage with 40 yards on seven carries, which included an 18-yard touchdown run on a terrific play fake on 4th-and-1. Prescott was sacked five times by the Chargers and under frequent pressure but bounced back after every sack.
Wide receiver CeeDee Lamb was a frequent target of Prescott's, with 7 receptions for 117 yards. Running back Tony Pollard struggled on the ground with just 30 yards on 15 carries, but caught 6 passes for 80 yards, including a nifty 60-yard catch-and-run that set up an early fourth quarter touchdown to give the Cowboys a 17-10 lead.
The Chargers got a break in the fourth quarter on a Cowboys muffed punt return, which was recovered by the Chargers at the Cowboys 20-yard line. That led to a one-yard touchdown pass from Herbert to Everett to tie the score at 17-17 with just over seven minutes left in the game. The Cowboys answered with a 14 play, 54-yard drive which utilized nearly five minutes of the play clock and forced the Chargers to use their timeouts. A 39-yard field goal from Cowboy kicker Brandon Aubrey with 2:19 remaining in the game gave the Cowboys a 20-17 lead.
Herbert had enough time to get the Chargers downfield for a score to tie or win the game but was sacked by linebacker Micah Parsons and on the next play pressured into an errant throw that was intercepted by cornerback Stephen Gilmore. Herbert completed 22 of 37 passes for 227 yards and twice overthrew a wide-open Allen for potential touchdowns or long gains. It was a not a good night for Herbert.
Head coach Brandon Staley did not have much to offer after the game about Herbert's performance. "He missed Keenan [Allen] on the double-move, but that's just part of the ball game," Staley said. "He definitely gave us a chance to win the game. He competed. We were right there at the end. We have to put this one behind us and get moving."
The win improved the Cowboys record to 4-2 and kept them in the chase for the NFC East title and the best record in the NFC, which earns a team a bye and homefield advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The San Francisco 49ers, the Philadelphia Eagles, and the Detroit Lions are all at 5-1 for the season. The 49ers crushed the Cowboys 42-10 just last week, a humiliating loss for the Cowboys.
The Cowboys have looked very good at times this season. The Cowboys beat the New York Giants 40-0, defeated the New York Jets 30-10, and ran all over the New England Patriots, 38-3. They had a stunning 28-16 loss to the lowly Arizona Cardinals and the blowout loss to the 49ers. But they have put together a complete game.
The Chargers now have a record of 2-3 for the season and every game has been a struggle. Every game has been decided by seven points or less and every game has been decided in the final two minutes or overtime. The Chargers could be 5-0 or 0-5 at this point. They simply have not been able to put together a complete game, unlike the Cowboys and other top teams in the NFL.
The Chargers will travel to Kansas City for a Sunday, October 22nd matchup with the Chiefs. The Chiefs lead the AFC West with a 5-1 record. The Las Vegas Raiders are in second place with a 3-3 record. The game will begin at 1:25 pm PST and will be televised on CBS. The Chiefs are the defending Super Bowl champions and have won seven consecutive AFC West division titles. With a two-game lead in the division over the Raiders, a win over the Chargers will get them closer to an eight consecutive division title.
The Chargers need to get Herbert going and do to that, they need to get the running game going. Against the Cowboys, the Chargers rushed for 53 on 23 carries. The offensive line needs to be better. As Staley said after the game, "We have to take a hard look at what we're doing. It takes all 11 people. It's not just on one unit - it's not just the O-line - it's the tight ends, the backs, the wideouts and the quarterback. We have to be more effective in that phase, if you're going to play high-level offense against a pass rush like that."
They also need to get rookie wide receiver Quentin Johnston going. Johnston, a first round pick out of TCU, has six receptions for 44 yards in five games. The receptions rank 197th in the NFL and the yards at 228th. The Chargers need to get everyone involved to win at Kansas City. They need to finally play a complete game.