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Chargers can’t overcome penalties, refs in 20-17 loss to Cowboys

I don’t think Chargers fans will forget this game anytime soon.

Dallas Cowboys v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

In a stadium filled with blue and gold, it may be a tough task to see every flag thrown by the referees. But on Sunday afternoon, the field might as well have been painted yellow with the amount of penalties committed by both teams playing inside SoFi Stadium.

In total, 20 penalties were committed. Of those 20, 12 were against the Chargers. Things truly came to a head in the second quarter when the Bolts were flagged eight times in an incredibly dysfunctional period.

All day the long, the Chargers consistently shot themselves in the foot. Multiple touchdowns were taken off the board in what can only be described as one of the most horrendous performances by an NFL officiating crew that we’ve seen in recent memory. Combine this afternoon with some of the calls in last week’s contest and I wouldn’t be surprised if the majority of Chargers fans called out of work on Monday citing “food (alcohol) poisoning.”


While many understood there was a chance the Chargers could lose to the Cowboys, no one would have believed it to have been because of several all-time terrible calls in officiating history.

But enough sulking. Lets get into the recap.

1st Quarter

The Cowboys entered Sunday’s game riding a 21-game streak of failing to score on their opening drive of a game. The Chargers did them a solid by allowing their 15-play drive to end with a four-yard rushing touchdown by Tony Pollard.

The Chargers began their first drive of the game with plays of 20 and 22 to Austin Ekeler and Keenan Allen, respectively. On the very next play, Herbert was picked off by a diving Trevon Diggs who undercut an intermediate route by Allen.

Three plays later, Dak Prescott overthrew a pass to CeeDee Lamb that sailed into the waiting arms of Asante Samuel Jr. for the rookie’s first (regular season) interception of his career. The Chargers would go 17 more yards before Tristan Vizcaino converted a 46-yard field goal to get the Bolts on the board.

With 17 seconds left in the first quarter, Ezekiel Elliott was able to plow in from five yards out to give the Cowboys a comfortable 14-3 lead.

2nd Quarter

In dire need of a touchdown, the Chargers responded to begin the second quarter with a 10-play, 75-yard drive that was capped by a screen pass to Mike Williams which he took for 12 yards into the end zone.

Playing the analytics on this one, Brandon Staley chose to roll the dice and go for two. Ekeler barreled in on an inside run to elevate the Chargers to within three.

The Los Angeles defense was able to stiffen up and forced a turnover on downs at their own 41-yard line.

The Bolts marched all the way to the Dallas 23. On second-and-three, Allen jumped early and set the offense back five yards. After two incompletions by Herbert, Vizcaino came out to attempt a 44-yard kick. He hooked it left and it dinged off the left upright. To rub salt in the wound, backup tackle Trey Pipkins grabbed a defender’s facemask which gave Dallas 15 additional yards to attempt a hail mary. Crazy enough, their lone play before the half actually got inside the 10 before Elliott was pushed out of bounds.

3rd Quarter

The Chargers began the half with a 13-play drive that got as far as the Dallas 14. Two backwards plays later, Vizcaino converted a short 32-yard kick to tie the game at 14-14.

After forcing the Cowboys to punt on their first drive of the second half, Herbert orchestrated another beautiful drive looked like it should have ended with a 36-yard pass to Donald Parham. Unfortunately, Jared Cook was called for holding and the ball was brought back to the Cowboys’ 44-yard line. In three plays, Herbert got the offense to the nine but threw his second interception of the day in the end zone. Allen slipped on the targeted route and due to timing purposes, Herbert let it fly before he could register that his receiver was not going to able to there.

4th Quarter

With the score still tied, the Chargers defense did their job and limited the Cowboys to three points on their next drive. With 10:25 on the clock, there was plenty of time left to get down the field, score, and get another stop.

Herbert capped an eight-play sequence with a 30-yard hookup to Allen that brought the ball all the way to the Dallas two. On the next play, he fired a bullet to Cook on an out route who stretched the ball over the line for the touchdown.

But then the penalty flags started flying.

Cook was flagged for taunting but it was an “illegal shift” penalty that voided the score. Instead of going up 21-17, the Chargers were still behind with the ball at the seven.

Then the craziest play happen.

Herbert took a snap and floating left into open space as he surveyed the field. Dallas linebacker Micah Parsons pursued him and before making contact with Herbert, the 6’6 passer stuck an arm into Parson’s abdomen to give him some space to make a last-minute throw. Despite getting the ball off and within five yards of a pass-catcher, the refs called the play dead at the 25-yard line. It was a routine play to throw the ball away and yet the refs made the call to blow a whistle early.

A 14-yard Ekeler catch wasn’t enough to convert the first and they settled with a 29-yard Vizcaino kick.

The Cowboys then shut the door on the Chargers with an 11-play drive that ended in a game-winning 56-yard field goal as time expired.