LA Chargers vs. Cowboys: 5 Things To Win Week 6

Heading into the bye week, the Chargers were on a winning streak and Week 6 offers a perfect opportunity to keep it alive, as they’ll be facing their offensive coordinator, Kellen Moore’s, former team. Below are five things the Chargers need to do to ensure a victory:

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Protect Justin Herbert 

With all the powerful pass rushers the Chargers have been facing recently, I’m going to have some variation of “protect the quarterback” in all of my articles. Herbert fractured a finger on his non-throwing hand during Week 4, so it will be of the utmost importance to make sure he doesn’t come in harm’s way to aggregate the injury.

Edge rusher Micah Parsons already four sacks on the year with 21 quarterback hurries and four hits. Edge rusher DeMarcus Lawrence has two sacks, while defensive lineman Osa Odighizuwa has three. Herbert was sacked twice this last game, both times by edge rusher Maxx Crosby.  I knew Crosby was going to be trouble, and I’ve got my eye on Parsons in particular during this next matchup. 

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers
Chargers vs. Cowboys: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Pressure Dak Prescott 

Khalil Mack was on another level against his former team in Week 4. He had six sacks on the rookie backup quarterback Aidan O’Connell, and though it was sad that Joey Bosa missed the game with an injury, I have to say, he was not missed. Mack looked so much like his former self when he was in Vegas and Chicago during the last game. 

Dak Prescott is pretty resilient but has had issues with turnovers in the past, and he’s yet to hit 300 passing yards this season. Granted, the Giants and Jets weren’t too much trouble and he didn’t have to do a whole lot during those games, but surprisingly the Cardinals were a tough opponent and his passing yardage only increased a little from the Arizona to the New England game where he was sacked three times.

And against the 49ers, who also had three sacks, his passing yardage was his second-lowest of the season and he had three interceptions. Though Prescott certainly isn’t a rookie like O’Connell, the Chargers just need to do enough to rattle him, and then Mack, Tuli Tuipulotu, and hopefully Bosa if he’s healthy, can create some turnover moments. 

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers
Chargers vs. Cowboys: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Focus on Tony Pollard 

Moore molded the Dallas offense last year to function with two lead backs and now one of those is the star. Tony Pollard so far has put up 340 rushing yards on the season and two rushing touchdowns. 

Senior writer Eric Smith for the Chargers relayed in Week 4 that “Staley credited the entire defense for holding the Raiders to just 76 rushing yards on 23 carries, good for just 3.3 yards per attempt. Josh Jacobs, the 2022 NFL rushing leader, had 58 yards on 17 attempts.”  Jacobs at times got into a groove during the game but it definitely could’ve been worse.

Cornerback Ja’Sir Taylor had some great tackles on Jacobs, including when he pushed Jacobs out of bounds after Asante Samuel Jr. had already missed the tackle. They couldn’t completely stop him, but the run defense is improving, which gives some hope for containing Pollard.  

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers Practice
Chargers vs. Cowboys: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Keep up the Run the Whole Game

The run defense in Dallas has been pretty good but they did let the Cardinals gain a few longer runs during their Week 3 game. Running back Rondale Moore had a long run of 45 yards while quarterback Joshua Dobbs had a run of 44. They also couldn’t stop the run against the 49ers and there were two rushing touchdowns, marking Dallas’s lowest run defense grade of the season (48). 

The Chargers running game was on point, at least for the first quarter of Week 4. During the first drive, wide receiver Derius Davis had a great gain of 51 yards setting up a 1st and 10. While Herbert in that same drive took it in for a touchdown on a 12-yard run. Running back Joshua Kelley broke some tackles to get to the 40 during that same quarter. Kelley had the most rushing yards of the group during that game at 65. These aren’t monster numbers but it’s a start.

But all that ended in the second half. As The Athletic’s Daniel Popper wrote “The offense did not score a point in the second half. A big part of that was the rushing attack faltering. The Chargers gained just 18 yards rushing on nine designed carries in the second half, according to TruMedia, and 10 of those yards came on a third-and-18 draw to Joshua Kelley in the fourth quarter. Four of their nine second-half designed rushes went for zero or negative yards, according to TruMedia.”

The run game is still struggling without Austin Ekeler, and according to the running back himself there is a 99 percent chance that he will play this week. Whatever pressure they can take off Herbert is ideal, so all fans are hoping to see a little more of a consistent run game with Ekeler back. 

Stop Quarterback Sneaking (For Now)

The Chargers attempted a quarterback sneak against the Raiders that faltered. It was during the fourth quarter when they tried to get a 1st down. Daniel Popper reported that “Herbert took only one snap from under center after fracturing his finger in the game Sunday. That was the failed fourth-and-1 sneak on the second-to-last possession of the game. Herbert said after the game he felt more comfortable in shotgun and pistol formations considering the state of his finger.”

The Raiders could have gotten a touchdown on the next play without the interception from Samuel Jr. Sneaks are tempting and they have blossomed in recent years but with Herbert’s injury, if the Chargers can’t execute these, it makes sense to run a passing or rushing play to not waste downs.