The Dallas Cowboys went into So-Fi Stadium and pulled off the win over the Los Angeles Chargers. It wasn’t the ride we might’ve been expecting, but there was no shortage of anxiety as this one came down to the wire. There were some great plays and also some not-so-great plays, but in the end, the Cowboys got it done and sit at 4-2 and second place in the NFC East, just one game behind Philadelphia. Here are 10 thoughts on the Monday night madness.
1. WHAT A TERRIBLE START
The game couldn’t start any worse. The Cowboys offense went three-and-out on their first possession. The Chargers returned the punt for 26 yards. And the Chargers offense scores five plays later to take a 7-0 lead with less than five minutes after the start of the game. In a game we expected to be a dogfight, this wasn’t the start we were hoping for.
2. LAST-SECOND DECISION
After the Chargers jumped out to the lead, the Cowboys answered back with a nine-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. The drive started out with a couple of nice throws to CeeDee Lamb followed by some nice runs by Tony Pollard. The offense found themselves in a familiar place inside the red zone facing a 4th-and-1. The Cowboys called a read-option and Dak Prescott waited about as long as one could before pulling the ball away from Pollard (he almost lost control of it) and then scampered off for an 18-yard touchdown run. Just like that, the game was tied.
3. DAK ON THE RUN
Prescott finished the game 21 of 30 throwing for 272 yards, and one passing touchdown, but it was what he did with his legs that proved valuable. Dak not only ran the ball seven times for 40 yards and the before-mentioned touchdown, but several times he escaped the pocket and kept the play alive. Prescott used his mobility to make big throws on the run that resulted in improv third-down conversions. It’s not the best thing in the world to have your quarterback on the run, but Prescott came through with some crucial plays.
4. GALLUP DROPS
The Cowboys had some opportunities early to score more points but came up empty after a few errant drops by Michael Gallup. It was odd as the ball was placed in great spots, but Gallup just couldn’t get his mitts on it. It was frustrating and we keep seeing more and more of these moments where the once 1,000-yard receiver is just not able to be a factor in this offense. We can’t put our finger on it as Gallup’s struggles are an enigma.
5. RESILIENT DEFENSE
This game was billed as one with a lot of offense, but it was the defense that showed out. As frustrating as it was to see the Cowboys struggle against a bad Chargers defense, at least the Cowboys' defense showed up to play. And let’s face it, they had to overcome a lot. Sometimes they would make stops only to have them taken away by penalties. Sometimes they would bat the ball down only to have it bounce right into the arms of Justin Herbert. And sometimes they would make stops only to have a special teams gaffe put them right back on the field. It was a tough ask to have those guys keep the Chargers offense from getting just enough points to get the job done, but they managed to pull it off.
6. A COMPLETE LACK OF DISCIPLINE
This game was ugly. In all, there were 20 penalties, and many of them nullified big plays. It was frustrating. The Cowboys committed the most penalties, getting flagged 11 times for 85 yards. It wasn’t just the quantity, but the type of penalties. More personal fouls. 12-men in the huddle. It’s like they were out there not knowing what in the world they were doing. The Cowboys even had to burn two second-half timeouts to prevent even more penalties. It was just a complete lack of discipline and another testament to how unprepared this team can be at times.
7. MCCARTHY’S COLD FEET
Oddly enough, the influx of penalties wasn’t the most erroneous sign of bad coaching on Monday night. The earth stopped moving for a moment when Mike McCarthy decided to refuse his last timeout and let the clock run down to three seconds late in the first half so his kicker could attempt a field goal. Nothing about that decision made any sense. The Cowboys had the ball at the 14-yard line with eight seconds left, plenty of time for one shot at the end zone. But McCarthy opted to play it safe and just go right to the field goal. This was one of the most cowardly coaching decisions I can remember seeing in a Cowboys game. It doesn’t make any sense that he wouldn’t at least try to score a touchdown.
8. NO POINTS FOR YOU!
McCarthy chickened out and took the points, but Chargers coach Brandon Staley took the aggressive approach when he went for it on fourth down on his team’s opening drive of the second half. The Chargers put together a nice 13-play drive, only to come up short at the seven-yard line when Cowboys cornerback DaRon Bland stepped in front of Joshua Palmer to break up the pass. L.A. rolled the dice and tried to jump ahead, but the Cowboys made a play and preserved their lead.
9. LATE-ROUND TRADES PAY OFF
In the offseason, the Cowboys traded away some cheap late-round draft capital to acquire the services of veteran Brandin Cooks and Stephon Gilmore. Both of these guys came up with clutch plays in this one. First, Cooks caught a two-yard touchdown pass to take a 17-10 fourth-quarter lead. Then, Gilmore iced the game with an interception as the Chargers were attempting to mount a comeback.
10. SECOND VERSE, SAME AS THE FIRST
The Cowboys have played the Chargers twice now in three years, both times at So-Fi Stadium. And both times they got caught up in a nail-biter where Prescott led a late fourth-quarter drive that set up the game-winning field goal to win the game by a score of 20-17. The Cowboys needed some help from their defense to put this game on ice, but it was a nice finish after to an otherwise frustrating game.