SAN DIEGO – Highlights of the Chargers' 30-21 win over the Cowboys will likely include Antonio Gates streaking down the field for a 56-yard touchdown. It'll also have a key fourth-quarter fumble by Terrance Williams that San Diego recovered in the end zone to seal the win.
But all games have those hidden plays that can be forgotten, but ended up playing a huge factor in the outcome. And here are a handful of plays that changed this game.
1. Claiborne beat early by Allen – On San Diego's second possession, the Chargers had third-and-8 at their own 37 and were staring a second straight three-and-out in the face. But Philip Rivers decided to test Mo Claiborne with Keenan Allen on the outside. Claiborne didn't have bad coverage, but had trouble locating the ball before Allen, who made the adjustment on the ball and then the catch for 31 yards. Two plays later, the Chargers found the end zone for a quick score.
2. Field goal attempt – The Cowboys used a 38-yard punt return by Dwayne Harris to start a second-quarter possession at the Chargers' 42. But a bad three-and-out series that included a first-down run by DeMarco Murray for no gain, prompted Jason Garrett to attempt a 56-yard field goal by Bailey. It doesn't matter how clutch he's been or much wind is behind, that's more than half of a football field and lots can happen when the ball is traveling that far. This kick sailed wide left and it gave the Chargers a first down at their 46. In just six plays, the Chargers regained the lead with a Nick Novak field goal.
3. Royal gets some breathing room –The Cowboys had just grabbed a 21-10 lead after Sean Lee's interception return and with just 1:19 left before halftime, the momentum was clearly with Dallas, especially since the Chargers were 90 yards from the end zone. But after two quick passes to Gates for 9 and 8 yards, Rivers went for Eddie Royal over the middle for a 28-yard gain. Royal beat Claiborne again to put the ball on the Cowboys' 45. A few plays later, Novak connected on a field goal that brought the Cowboys' lead down to 21-13 at the half. [embedded_ad]
4. Murray for short loss –While it's only a play of minus-one on the stats, it's another momentum-killer. The Chargers had trimmed the lead to 21-20 and the Cowboys were looking to answer on their first drive of the third quarter. After a personal foul penalty on the Chargers moved the Cowboys to the San Diego 49, one of the rare first-down runs that didn't have success went to Murray for a short loss. That put the Cowboys back into the passing attack and Romo threw two straight incomplete passes, forcing a punt by Chris Jones from the 50. The punt traveled just 29 yards and the Cowboys were unable to capitalize.
5. Leary's holding call –The Cowboys trailed 23-21 early in the fourth but were on the move at the Chargers 40 after a six-yard pass to Dez Bryant on first down. But on second-and-4, the Cowboys went for another pass and completed a 6-yard pass to Cole Beasley for a first down. But a holding call on Ron Leary negated the play and pushed them back to second-and-14 at midfield. Another quick pass to Beasley for six, coupled by a deep incomplete pass to Witten, forced another punt. And the Chargers took that possession and grabbed a commanding two-score lead, thanks to a Rivers to Gates touchdown on the ensuing drive.