still close in the fourth quarter and they end up surrendering a long drive to lose the game. Is it the fault of the defense or giving up the drive, or should the offense have done a little more earlier in the game? Honestly, you can make the claim that's what happened in this one.
But that's my point about the schedule. If the December stretch is brutal, then you better win enough earlier on to survive it. And right now, it looks like the Cowboys haven't done that.
Back to this game, it just came down to sound execution and San Diego out-executed the Cowboys.
They played better at quarterback. Yes, Tony Romo had his third straight game without an interception and third straight triple-digit QB rating at 111.7. Cool, but what did that do? Yeah, you can't blame these last two losses on Romo really. He's not losing games for them. But he's not exactly winning them either. There were throws to be had and that he left on the table.
And on the other side, Philip Rivers made his. He had a remarkable game, picking his spots to make big plays and managing the game at the same time.
Better at quarterback, and better on offense all together, that's why the Chargers won. Their receivers went up and made big plays. Sure, Miles Austin and Roy Williams had solid games, but the Cowboys needed more. They needed what Vincent Jackson (seven catches, 120 yards) gave to the Chargers.
How good was he? I admitted earlier in the week that I just hadn't seen enough of his game this year. But that's a Pro Bowl receiver who probably won't make it because of guys like Welker, Moss, Wayne, Ward, Ochocinco and now Brandon Marshall and his 21-catch day. If Vincent Jackson was in the NFC, he'd be in the Pro Bowl. Instead, there's a good chance Austin will make it now that he's at 10 touchdowns and one yard away from 1,000.
Jackson was better than the Cowboys' receivers. Antonio Gates was more productive than Jason Witten.
The Chargers' defense made a key stop when it had to, while the Cowboys couldn't get off the field.
San Diego kicker Nate Kaeding made his two attempts, while the Cowboys were one for two. San Diego is comfortable with its kicker for next week's game. The Cowboys are not comfortable and shouldn't be.
The Chargers' coaching staff called a better game on offense than the Cowboys did. Anytime you fail to score from the one-yard line with three opportunities, and all three were running plays up the middle, then you're going to get scrutinized. Not that it's a bad thing to get out-coached by Norv Turner, but that's what happened and for that series, it proved to be a crucial part of the game.
From top to bottom, the Cowboys were beat by a better football team on Sunday. And the road, literally, only gets tougher, just six days from now.
At 8-5, with the teams the Cowboys have lost to and how close those games have been, it's safe to say this is still a good team. But the question that hangs over this club's head, the same one that has lingered for the past few years, is if the Cowboys are simply "good enough" to get the job done when the games matter the most.
They weren't last week. They weren't on Sunday. And time is running out, with a steep hill in front of them, for the Cowboys to prove otherwise.