The Chargers picked up a road win against the Washington Football Team. The Cowboys bit the dust in an opening season loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If you wanted to watch a fun and entertaining game, the Chargers- Cowboys was the one to watch.
It turned out not to be too much of a good time for the Chargers as Dallas came away with a 20-17 win, thanks to a 56-yard walk-off field goal with no time remaining in the game by placekicker Greg Zuerlein.
“This game is about the Chargers,” Chargers head coach Brandon Staley said after the game. “All the other stuff I don’t want to really talk about. This game was about us. In all three phases of the game, we lost this game as a team. We didn’t play a clean enough game to win. Our guys competed. We played together, but we did not play clean enough football to beat that team. That team is a good team, but we didn’t play clean enough to finish it.”
For the Chargers, the game presented missed opportunities more than anything else. Two interceptions (one in the endzone), a dozen penalties for 99 yards, and a 41 percent in third-down efficiency ( 5 of 12).
“We win and lose as a team,” said Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert after completing 31 of 41 passes for 338 yards and a touchdown.
Despite another stellar outing, Herbert committed two interceptions, one that effectively ended a sure-fire scoring opportunity for the Chargers.
“I can’t turn the ball over in the red zone and expect to win,” remarked Herbert.
Take away those two picks, Herbert had an excellent afternoon. But so did Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott. Prescott was efficient and methodical, completing 23 of 27 passes for 237 yards against the Chargers.
The AFC-NFC showdown came down to the quarterbacks. You had two of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL going toe-to-toe. Herbert was the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year last season. Prescott, coming off an injury that forced him to miss most of the 2020 season, is a proven leader for the Cowboys.
Both signal-callers can run. Both quarterbacks can throw for a bunch of yards. So, it’s no surprise that the game would down to which strong right-handed passer would win the game for his team. Sometimes having a powerful throwing arm can get you into trouble.
Just as his team was primed to take their first lead of the game late in the third quarter, Herbert, who had been firing one dart after another all game long, took a chance to try to squeeze a pass into the middle of the Dallas defense.
That plan backfired. Herbert was picked off two yards deep into the endzone by Damontae Kazee for his second interception of the game. The Cowboys wound up getting a 34-yard field goal out of Herbert’s miscue.
With 10:25 left in the game, Herbert had more than enough time to rally the troops to victory.
That optimism was derailed by a couple of miscues on the part of the Chargers. A Herbert touchdown pass to tight end Jared Cooked was nullified due to an illegal shift penalty on the offense.
Both Cook and wide receiver Mike Williams were nabbed for the illegal shift penalty.
“We had, first of all, the team coming to the line of scrimmage to get set,” explained referee Tony Corrente via Pro Football Writers of America pool reporter Jeff Miller. “And as the wide receiver on the offensive left side began in motion, the offensive receiver on the right side was still moving around. He was not in a set position. All 11 players have to be set simultaneously, at least for a second, before they can go into a shift, or they can go into motion. Well, what happened here was, this player went into motion without his whole team being fully set at that point. So, you had two receivers never reset to allow the formation to become legal.”
On the next play, Herbert took an 18-yard sack. The Chargers wound up getting a 29-yeard field goal by placekicker Tristian Vizcaino to tie the game at 17-17 with 3:54 left in the fourth quarter.
That was too much time on the clock for Prescott and the Dallas offense. Prescott led the Cowboys down the field for the winning drive.
When you look at it this contest featured America’s Team against a football squad looking to find its identity under a first-year head coach. Throughout the first half of the ballgame, things turned out pretty even with Prescott and the Cowboys holding a slim 14-11 lead as the two teams headed into the locker room.
Without Prescott using his legs to scoot for a single yard, the Cowboys used their potent rushing attack to bulled their way into the endzone twice. But without the pinpoint passing of Prescott, who went for 403 yards through the air against Tampa Bay, the Cowboys would not have had the edge in the scoring category.
The Chargers should have walked into intermission tied, but kicker Tristian Vizcaino missed a field goal attempt near the end of the second quarter, keeping the Chargers in a three-point hole to the visitors from Texas.
Outside of the sloppiness of 13 called penalties (9 on Dallas), it was an entertaining first two quarters between AFC and NFC teams. Herbert looked sharp as did Prescott. But deciding the game would come down to the third and fourth quarters.
Vizcaino made up for his early miss with a made chippie on the Chargers’ opening series in the third quarter to knot the game up at 14.
Feature Image Caption: Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler runs through the Dallas Cowboys defense on Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021. The Cowboys defeated the Chargers, 20-17. Photo credit: Los Angeles Chargers