That’s more like it. After a demoralizing loss to the 49ers, the Cowboys walked into SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles and beat the Chargers in a close one. It was no revenge game for Kellen Moore, whose offense was held to its lowest point total of the year, although Mike McCarthy’s Texas Coast offense hardly lit up the scoreboard either.
The game featured plenty of good and plenty of bad for the Cowboys, not without its sloppy moments but still containing several great performances. Who was the best, though? Here are some of the more notable player grades from Pro Football Focus.
An imperfect night for the offense
McCarthy didn’t exactly show off in front of his former coordinator, but the Cowboys offense did enough to get into scoring position quite a few times. Flying under the radar was the offense scoring a touchdown on 50% of their red zone trips, with the two failures consisting of the failed tush push on fourth and short, and settling for a field goal right before halftime. Nothing to write home about yet, but definitely a good step forward in the red zone.
QB Dak Prescott - 90.0
Dak Prescott had an incredible game, completing 70% of his passes for 272 yards and a touchdown and adding 40 rushing yards on four carries and another score. More importantly, a clean game from Prescott without even so much as a turnover worthy play. That was despite Prescott being pressured on roughly 40% of his dropbacks, an astronomically high rate.
WR CeeDee Lamb - 86.5
CeeDee Lamb talked all week about his desire to see more targets, and he got his wish. Seven targets and seven catches for 117 total yards, with 30 of those coming after the catch. Even better: all seven of those receptions went for a first down.
WR Brandin Cooks - 68.0
At long last, the Brandin Cooks game. It wasn’t necessarily a dominant game, but the veteran receiver finally made his presence felt. He caught all four of his targets for 36 yards and a touchdown. Cooks also had an impressive catch to move the chains on a crucial third down.
The offensive line had its issues
As mentioned above, the offensive line had its hands full in pass protection this week. Prescott was pressured on 40% of his dropbacks, which is only the second time this year it’s been above 32%. The only other time was last week against San Francisco, when the pressure rate hit 52%. It was a rough night for the line across the board.
LT Tyron Smith - 70.0
LG Tyler Smith - 59.7
C Tyler Biadasz - 60.0
RG Zack Martin - 61.6
RT Terence Steele - 53.9
Every single lineman gave up at least one pressure, with Tyler Biadasz and Zack Martin each giving up four. Martin was also called for two penalties, though one was declined. Tyler Smith also incurred two penalties, but he did post the best pass blocking grade of the night.
Defense steps up when they’re needed most
It wasn’t the best performance we’ve seen from this defense, but they stepped up when they were needed most. The sack from Micah Parsons late in the game backed the Chargers into a third and long, which led to Stephon Gilmore’s game-sealing interception. Four different defensive players posted elite player grades, and many more played well too.
iDL Osa Odighizuwa - 92.1
Osa Odighizuwa continues to ascend this year, and he was a constant pass rushing force in this game. He finished with six pressures and also led the team in run stops with three. Odighizuwa’s emergence has made it very hard for any other defensive tackles to make it onto the field, because there’s no good argument for taking 97 off the field right now.
LB Markquese Bell - 91.3
Markquese Bell was going to be forced into a bigger role this week with Leighton Vander Esch out, and the former safety responded with a career night. His seven tackles were tied for second on the team, and he made several huge stops in the running game.
EDGE DeMarcus Lawrence - 91.0
DeMarcus Lawrence has been the Cowboys’ most consistently great defender this year, even more so than Micah Parsons. He tallied four pressures, three run stops, and had a very crucial batted pass that potentially saved a touchdown in this game.
EDGE Micah Parsons - 89.6
It was building all night. Micah Parsons finished the game with eight pressures, and had been getting so close for so long in this game. Finally, he broke through with a clutch sack on the Chargers’ final drive of the game, splitting a double team in the process.
LB Damone Clark - 74.8
Credit where it’s due for Damone Clark stepping up in Vander Esch’s absence. He finished the game with the team lead in tackles with eight, and was serviceable enough in coverage. It wasn’t a banner day for Clark, but it was good enough to hold the defense together and earn him the fifth best player grade on this side of the ball.