The Chargers started hot against the Cowboys on both sides of the ball.
The defense forced a quick three-and-out and then Justin Herbert and the offense went right down and scored to take an early 7-0 lead. From there, the Cowboys responded to tie things up but offense was sparse through the remaining three quarters.
Herbert did not look like himself on several occasions throughout the night which drastically hurt a defense that was keeping a lid on the Cowboys offense in what was an encouraging performance for the most part.
In the end, it was the offense that needed to make plays but couldn’t as Herbert threw an game-ending interception before they could even muster a first down.
Monday night’s game had everything. The good and bad. So naturally, it makes this topic of winners/losers pretty easy to cover.
Let’s dive in.
WR Keenan Allen
Allen had a good outing by most standards with seven receptions on 11 targets that went for 85 yards and a touchdown. What could have been, however, as Justin Herbert missed Allen on multiple deep passes with the wideout having gained ample separation from his defender. Should he have hit on both, Allen could have easily doubled his receiving total and possibly pulled the Chargers over the hump to win on Monday night.
But that unfortunately wasn’t the case.
Allen has been the team’s top wideout since being drafted in 2013 and nothing has changed even though he’s inching further into his 30s. Nonetheless, he’s proving to be the biggest producer on offense this season and I think it’s not out of the realm of possibility to believe he should stay in powder blue until he either retires or the wheels truly do start to come off.
CB Ja’Sir Taylor - Special Teamer
Taylor didn’t have a great day in coverage, but he still made one of the plays of the game on special teams.
Almost a year to the day, October 17th, 2022, Taylor blocked a Broncos defender into their punt returner and forced a fumble that helped the Chargers earn a victory that week. 364 days later, he caused a similar play to happen by blocking a Cowboys defender into the returner which forced the punt to bounce off the turf. In the chaos and confusion, Dallas wideout Jalen Tolbert dove for the ball believing it was live and managed to touch it before any Chargers player did. The Bolts ultimately recovered the ball which set them up at the Cowboys 20-yard line. The Chargers scored four plays later.
Taylor is still in his second year as an unheralded sixth-round pick so it’s understandable he’s coming along slow, but it helps wash out some bad defensive snaps when he’s able to make this much of an impact on special teams.
CB Michael Davis and Ja’Sir Taylor
Davis and Taylor combined to allow seven passes on 10 targets for 88 yards. While those numbers alone don’t scream a horrendous outing for the pair, they also combined for three penalties, including two on the same play that bailed the Cowboys out of a third-and-11 situation deep inside their own territory. The Cowboys would then go on to kick a field goal for what would be the deciding points in the game.
Not many people understood the defensive game plan and that includes me. The Chargers consistently sat seven yards off the line of scrimmage and allowed the Cowboys to pick them apart underneath on easy curl and comeback routes.
So it wasn’t so much the quantity of yards given up, but the quality of the yards given up in gotta-have-it situations. So in their first game with J.C. Jackson off the team, the Chargers secondary did not look all that great. They were without safety Alohi Gilman, but I can’t imagine his presence would have fixed the issues we saw on Monday night.
QB Justin Herbert
This was an odd one for Herbert.
He played well for most of the night, to be honest. While the Cowboys pressured him on almost 50 percent of his dropbacks, he still did not take a sack until the final drive of the game. He got the ball out quickly and mostly avoided negative plays. But the misses. Those damn misses to Keenan Allen ended up costing the Chargers a lot of yards and a lot of stress. Each time that ball flew over the outstretched arms of Allen, you could feel the energy leave the sideline.
Prior to the Chargers kicking the field goal to tie the score at 10-10, Herbert waited far too long before throwing the ball to Austin Ekeler in the flat. Had he done it a moment sooner, the Chargers waltz into the end zone and take a four-point lead. The fact they had to settle for a field goal in that moment felt like a momentum-booster for the Cowboys, if anything.
Then there was the pick at the end of the game to seal their fate.
Believe it or not, this was actually not a Herbert thing. While watching live, all you see is him throwing the pick. Nothing else. On replay, this was actually a savvy veteran move by Stephon Gilmore taking advantage of a rookie wideout who hasn’t proven enough to see the field despite his first-round pedigree.
Quentin Johnston is open here for at least a sliver of time. Herbert sees it but has to maneuver the pocket for a clean window. By the time he releases it, Johnston and Gilmore are now racing back to the ball. Johnston is essentially bullied out of the way by Gilmore who simply wants it more. This is a former Defensive Player of the Year. It’s not surprising.
So at the end of it all, I’m not faulting Herbert for this. The other stuff? Yeah, he was off. Now on to Kansas City.