The Dallas Cowboys have reached a very important game on their schedule. And it’s more than just the “Kellen Moore” game. That storyline had been present since the instant the schedule came out. It remains an important part of the game, but for the Cowboys, this contest has mushroomed into something much more.
The Cowboys’ season appears to be teetering on the edge, just a bit. After the meteoric start to the season, things have definitely hit a rough patch. Losing two of three games, and doing it in the way they did, has cast a lot of doubt on Dallas. Even the players are getting frustrated.
The Cowboys head into their bye week after this Monday night contest with the Los Angeles Chargers. Going into that break with a 4-2 record will calm the waters and allow them to move ahead with a sense of momentum. Lose on Monday night and drop to 3-3 on the year, and suddenly you’re down among the ‘also-ran’ teams instead of the top tier.
This game has become so much more than the ‘Kellen Moore game’. In some ways, it’s the same for the Chargers who would like to get to 3-2 on the year instead of 2-3 after having extra time to rest and prepare coming off of their bye.
In this meeting of the two teams, DraftKings Sportsbook has the Cowboys as two-point favorites over the Chargers.
The Cowboys and the Chargers don’t meet very often. They only have 12 games between them, with the Cowboys leading the series 7-5. Dallas won the last game, 20-17, in 2021. Previous to that the Chargers were on a three-game win streak versus Dallas.
Technically, this is the Cowboys ‘17th game.’ The NFL added a formula for the extra game when they upped the regular season to 17 games for the 2021 season. The Cowboys have won both of their previous ‘17th games’ by beating the New England Patriots in 2021 and the Cincinnati Bengals last year.
Dallas is 49-35 overall on Monday Night Football. That’s 85 appearances on MNF, second to the Miami Dolphins who have 86 games in the time slot. The Cowboys have split their primetime games this season, beating the New York Giants, and famously getting crushed by the San Francisco 49ers. But in general the Cowboys do well in primetime recently. They are 9-3 since 2021.
Even with the pathetic showing against the 49ers last week, the Cowboys defense still leads the league in third-and-long defense (3rd-and-6 or longer). Teams are 2-for-24 against the Dallas defense in that situation; the 8.3% conversion rate allowed leads the league.
We’ve spoken about it a lot this week but the Cowboys under Mike McCarthy really do have a strong record after losing. Since 2021, they are 9-1 in games after a loss. That is tops in the NFL by percentage.
Dak Prescott needs a touchdown pass this week to give him one against all 31 opponents he has played against in the NFL. If he does it, he will be the 30th NFL quarterback to have a touchdown pass against all 31 opponents.
Micah Parsons got the first sack of his career against the Chargers in Week 2 of his rookie season. Taking a little trip into history, Parsons had to take over some of the pass-rushing role in that game when DeMarcus Lawrence broke his foot mid-week. Parsons was a revelation in that game, and kick-started the debate over him being an off-ball linebacker or a pass-rushing defensive end. Here is what we wrote about that game after it was over:
Imagine a rookie in the NFL being asked to switch positions in the middle of the week, then going out and getting a sack that helped win the game. He also had four QB hits, eight pressures, and was directly responsible for a holding call on the Chargers. He basically harassed Justin Herbert all game.
Parsons played 55% of the defensive snaps during the game. He was used, according to PFF, 27 times in pass rush, nine times for rush defense, and three times in coverage. His pass rush grade for the game was an elite 90.8. His overall grade was 89.9, easily the highest rated Cowboys defender. If you compare his pass rush grade to the other ones from Sunday, he ranked second to only Aaron Donald for defenders who had more than 20 pass rush attempts. The rest of his PFF numbers were equally insane.
In maybe a full-circle moment as Parsons may actually end up having to split some time back at off-ball linebacker this week with the absence of Leighton Vander Esch. We don’t know exactly what Dan Quinn’s plans for this week will be at linebacker, but Parsons may have to play all over the field.
Some other quick stat hits:
- Brandon Aubrey is now 14-of-14 on field goals to start his career. He is the first Cowboys kicker to reach that mark, and the seventh in NFL history.
- Tony Pollard went off the last time he played the Chargers. He had 109 yards rushing and a touchdown, on only 13 rushes. That’s an 8.4 yard per carry average. He also caught three passes for 31 yards.
- Mike McCarthy is going for win number 158 in his career, and would pass Bud Grant for 19th all-time among NFL head coaches.
Team comparison stats:
- The Cowboys rank eighth in scoring per game (26.8), the Chargers are seventh (27.5).
- Dallas ranks seventh in points allowed per game (16.6) while Los Angeles ranks 24th (26).
- The Cowboys are 17th in total yards per game 327.4, the Chargers under Kellen Moore are fifth at 388.8.
- Dallas is fifth in total yards allowed by the defense (292). Los Angeles is 31st (404).