Chargers Fall On Last-Second Field Goal
The Chargers dropped a 20-17 heartbreaker to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday in their first regular-season game with fans present at SoFi Stadium.
In an extremely competitive, back-and-forth matchup, mental mistakes and porous run defense plagued the Bolts. Los Angeles had plenty of chances but ultimately, it was a 56-yard field goal from Dallas kicker Greg Zuerlein which decided the winner.
Dallas began the game with the football and tremendous momentum. With 10 days rest and fresh off a tough loss, the Cowboys took the ball 78 yards for a touchdown on their opening drive. From four yards out, running back Tony Pollard carried the ball around the right side and across the goal line to break up the tie ball game.
On the ensuing possession, the Chargers seemed to have their offense humming as well, rattling off two chunk plays to begin their drive. Running back Austin Ekeler got the party started with a 20-yard run before receiver Keenan Allen added a 22-yard reception. Quarterback Justin Herbert dropped back to pass the next play and threw slightly behind his intended target. Instead of finding Allen, cornerback Trevon Diggs made a tremendous break on the ball and finished the play with an interception.
Own Worst Enemy
First-year head coach Brandon Staley has put a lot of emphasis on being a disciplined football team. Now, two games into his tenure, the Chargers have struggled mightily with penalties. In the first half alone, the Bolts were flagged nine times for 79 yards. The team finished with 11 total penalties (94 yards) on the day which really kept them from being able to sustain long drives. Two Chargers touchdowns were negated by mental miscues including a Jared Cook catch late in the fourth quarter which would have put the Bolts up 21-17 with less than six minutes remaining.
Tough Day In Run Support
Entering the weekend, Dallas knew it wanted to lean on its talented offensive line and rely on a heavy dose of the run game. The Chargers knew this as well but were unable to do much to slow the Cowboys down offensively. The Los Angeles defensive line struggled to create consistent pressure off the snap which allowed for truck-size holes to develop. Starting running back Ezekiel Elliott took 16 carries for 71 yards and a touchdown but the difference maker was his backup. Pollard finished with 13 carries, 109 yards, and a score. He averaged an impressive 8.4 yards per carry and added a game-long 28-yard run.
Bosa Goes Quiet
Defensive end Joey Bosa had a quiet day at the office thanks to a smart game plan from Dallas. The Cowboys essentially erased the Chargers’ superstar pass-rusher from the equation by executing a ton of quick-hitting passes. This allowed quarterback Dak Prescott to carve up the defense and get the ball out of his hands quickly. In the run game, Dallas constantly ran the opposite way of No. 97 and forced the rest of the Los Angeles defense to make plays. Bosa finished with three total tackles and just one pressure.
Herbert On Par With The Best
Although his team was unable to get the result, Herbert was able to accomplish yet another personal accolade. The former Duck finished the game throwing 31-for-41 with 338 yards and a touchdown. In just his 17th NFL game, Herbert now has 10 games with 300+ passing yards. That ties Patrick Mahomes and Dan Marino for the most in league history in a player’s first two seasons.
Like Father, Like Son
Another bright spot for the Chargers was the outstanding play of rookie cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. who recorded his first career interception and had a fantastic overall game. The pick came early in the first quarter as Prescott underthrew his receiver who was running deep down the right sideline. Samuel Jr. read the quarterback’s eyes perfectly, breaking on the ball and returning it 26 yards to the Dallas 45. He would add four total tackles and led all defenders with three pass breakups.
The Chargers will need to get their mistakes fixed quickly as next week they travel to Arrowhead Stadium for a tough matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs. It will mark the first division game of the season for either team. In a game that will more than likely hold serious playoff implications, Los Angeles will need to improve in all three phases if they hope to compete next week.