Chargers-Cowboys was a lot of things. The good, the bad, and the ugly were all well-represented on Monday night.
Unfortunately, it was the Chargers who were the ugliest at the end of the night.
The game ended with Justin Herbert and the offense facing a three-point deficit and a little over two minutes remaining on the clock.
Stop me if you’ve hear that line before.
Just like the end of their Week One matchup against the Dolphins, the offense went no where when it mattered most. Herbert and Co. failed to gain just one first down. On their third-down attempt, Herbert was hurried like he was all night which led to him throwing an errant pass with bodies collapsing all around him.
The intended target was wideout Quentin Johnston. It landed in the arms of cornerback Stephon Gilmore.
Just like that, the Chargers are back under .500 at 2-3 with a road trip to Kansas City next Sunday on a short week.
For the compete quarter-by-quarter recap of today’s game, continue on below!
The Chargers won the opening coin toss and chose to defer. Cowboys were up first on offense.
Dallas ran the ball two consecutive plays to open the game for a combined four yards. On third down, Khalil Mack bull-rushed Tyron Smith into the lap of Dak Prescott before reaching out with a large paw to bring the quarterback down. That forced a quick three-and-out for the Bolts.
Justin Herbert hit Gerald Everett off play-action to begin the drive which was set up by a lengthy return from Derius Davis. Austin Ekeler took a screen pass inside the 10-yard line before Herbert found Keenan Allen for his fourth receiving touchdown of the season.
Less than five minutes into the game, the Chargers led 7-0.
On the other side, the Cowboys marched down the field thanks to a couple first-down grabs by wideout CeeDee Lamb. On fourth-and-one inside the Chargers’ red zone, Dak Prescott kept the ball on a zone read before scampering 18 yards for the tying score.
The Chargers couldn’t muster a first down on the second drive of the game even after being aided by a Cowboys penalty. They fell short on third-and-two before punting it away.
The luck wasn’t there for the Cowboys on their next drive either. Another penalty put them behind the chains and they failed on their third-and-medium opportunity near midfield. The ensuing punt tucked the Chargers right up inside their five-yard line at their two.
Just before the end of the first quarter, Herbert found Allen on a curl route before he broke a pair of tackles and crossed over the line to gain.
The Chargers managed a couple first downs and even got into Cowboys territory, but that’s where things stalled. The Cowboys pass rush continued to get after Herbert and ultimately forced a short throw to Allen on third down. JK Scott pushed Dallas back to their 11-yard line and that ended up being impactful as the Chargers forced another three-and-out. An illegal formation flag forced a punt out of their own end zone.
Both teams traded punts before the Cowboys found some momentum late in the quarter. They drove into Chargers territory but stalled in the red zone when Kenneth Murray stopped Tony Pollard short of the sticks on third down. The Cowboys attempted the “tush push” quarterback sneak with only about two feet to convert. Safety Dean Marlowe jumped over the pile at the snap and the defensive line managed to keep Prescott short to force a turnover on downs.
With a little over two minutes remaining in the first half, the Chargers put together a bit of a drive but it stalled at midfield. The Cowboys took the ball down with under a minute left to kick a field goal and take a 10-7 lead into the half.
The Chargers started the second half on offense and managed to find some momentum they struggled to pin down in the second quarter. They marched 68 yards in 12 plays before finding themselves at fourth-and-short at the Dallas seven-yard line. Obviously going for it, Herbert took the snap, spun to his left to pull the second level, and rolled out to his right. After setting his feet, he fired a pass to the end zone intended for Joshua Palmer but Cowboys cornerback DaRon Bland broke it up at the last moment. The Chargers left the red zone with zero points as they turned it over on downs.
Morgan Fox stepped up on the ensuing defensive drive with his fourth sack of the season to shut down the Cowboys drive before it ever got started.
With the ball at the Cowboys 48-yard line, the Chargers trekked further into Dallas territory on the back of Herbert and Allen. Things derailed once the Bolts had first-and-goal at the Cowboys’ six-yard line. The first play was a direct wildcat snap to Ekeler who gained just two yards. Herbert followed it with a scramble on a broken play and then threw an incompletion to Donald Parham in the end zone.
Cameron Dicker came on for his first field goal of the night to bang home a 24-yard kick which tied things at 10-10.
The Cowboys faced a third-and-11 as time ticked away in the period.
To begin the quarter, the Chargers had what should have been a sack on Prescott but he miraculously broke out of the scrum, scrambled to his right, and found Tony Pollard over the middle. Despite Michael Davis wrapping him up immediately, Pollard somehow broke out of his grasp and ran for 60 yards. That led to a Cowboys touchdown just a few plays later as Prescott hit veteran wideout Brandin Cooks. The score put the Cowboys up 17-10 with a little over 11 minutes remaining.
Two plays into their drive, the Chargers found themselves at third-and-one but Zion Johnson was called for a hold which forced them to ultimately punt.
But then some craziness occurred.
Ja’Sir Taylor blocked a Cowboys defender into their returner which made the ball bounce innocently to the turf. A scrum for the ball led to a Cowboys receiver touching it first. The issue here is that if he did not touch it at all, it’s Cowboys ball. His confusion led to the Chargers recovering the ball at the Dallas 20-yard line. Four plays later, Herbert converted on fourth-and-one with a short pass to Gerald Everett for a touchdown.
The Cowboys started pushing back on the Chargers as time continued to tick down in the final period. A sack by Nick Williams on the second down of the drive was completely negated due to two defensive holding calls on Michael Davis and Ja’Sir Taylor. It was only a five-yard penalty but it came with an automatic first down. Dak then hit CeeDee Lamb near the right sideline to get them near field goal range.
With 2:19 remaining in the game, the Cowboys were forced to settle for a field goal that put them up 20-17.
Like the changing of the seasons, Herbert and the Chargers found themselves with the ball down three points in the final moments of a game.
Their final drive lasted only four plays. After a Dallas offsides on first down, the Chargers gained two yards on a scramble by Herbert. On second-and-two, Micah Parsons found Herbert for the first time all night. On third-and-10, Herbert was rushed once more and his hastened attempt flew into the arms of former Defensive Player of the Year, Stephon Gilmore.
That was all she wrote. Cowboys win 20-17.
Justin Herbert finished with 227 yards passing on 22-of-37 attempts with two touchdowns and the game-ending interception.
Austin Ekeler led the Chargers with 27 yards rushing on 14 attempts.
Keenan Allen caught seven passes for 85 yards and a touchdown. Gerald Everett also caught a one-yard score.
Kenneth Murray led the defense with nine tackles. The Chargers finished with four sacks on Dak Prescott.
The Chargers are on the road next week in Kansas City to face the Chiefs.