Don’t look now but the AFC West race has gotten tighter. A lot tighter. The Kansas Chiefs looked like runaway winners of the division in September. That was then. The Chiefs have posted a 1-5 mark in their last six games. As a result, the Los Angeles Chargers, fresh off of a Thanksgiving beatdown of the Dallas Cowboys, are only a game back from tying the AFC West Division leader.
That’s two in a row for the Chargers. The Chargers, coming off a big win against the Buffalo Bills last Sunday, played another excellent game against the Cowboys. The Chargers beat the Cowboys 28-6 at AT&T Stadium.
While the Chargers are improving their playoff chances on a weekly basis in a wide-open AFC West Division, the Cowboys are sinking fast in Jerry’s World. Dallas, expected to bounce back after getting blown out by the Eagles the previous week, looked like a team playing in the fog against the Chargers.
They had no clue what was going on.
The Chargers, on the flip side, exceeded expectations in this game and were able to dominate on both sides of the ball. In the first half, the Chargers had over 200 yards in total offense, but they were only able to put up three points to show for their efforts. A missed field goal and failure to convert a fourth down opportunity in the red zone cost the Chargers more points.
The Chargers wasted scoring opportunities worked well in Dallas’ favor for the time being. With placekicker Nick Novak in the locker room getting checked out for an injury, coach Anthony Lynn and the Chargers were left with little choice but to go for it on fourth down. Then again, the Chargers’ kicking game has been an issue all season.
The matchup against the Cowboys proved that point. Besides the early missed field goal by Novak, the Chargers would also miss several extra points throughout the game. In the second half, the Chargers offense re-wrote the script from their inept showing in the first half, scoring 25 of their 28 points in the final two quarters.
Quarterback Phillip Rivers continues to amaze. Against the Cowboys, Rivers passed for 434 yards and three second half touchdowns to lead the Chargers (5-6) to their fifth win on the season. Rivers also had some big time help from wide receiver Keenan Allen, who caught 11 passes for 172 yards, including a dazzling 42-yard run-and-catch dash into the endzone for a score.
Allen has been on fire as of late, catching 23 passes for 331 yards and three touchdowns in the last two games. But the real unsung heroes for Los Angeles was the Chargers defense. A week after registering six turnovers against the Bills, including coming away with five interceptions, the Chargers defense played well enough to hold the Cowboys scoreless until early in the fourth quarter. It was also the defense that finished off the Cowboys.
Rookie Desmond King completed the Chargers takedown of the Cowboys with a 90-yard interception return. It was the second pick six by the Chargers defense in as many games. King’s interception was one of two turnovers the Chargers defense forced. Cornerback Casey Hayward intercepted Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott on the ensuing possession late in the fourth quarter his 20th career pick.
The pass defense of the Chargers shouldn’t come as a surprise. The Chargers currently rank eighth in pass defense in the league and have recorded 14 interceptions thus far on the season.
The Cowboys were without one of their leaders on defense as linebacker Sean Lee was out for the second straight game. That really hurt the Cowboys as they surrendered 515 total yards.
If the Chargers continue the way they are playing they can be a dangerous team during the final stretch of the regular season.
Akash Caveney currently attends Cal State Long Beach University as a full-time student.