SAN DIEGO – Sunday offered the league of what the Cowboys' defense looked like with no pass rush, and it wasn't pretty.
The Chargers held Dallas to its lowest sack total of the season in Sunday's 30-21 loss. George Selvie continued the strong start to his season with a second quarter sack of Phillip Rivers, but other than that, the Chargers' signal-caller kept his jersey clean through most of the day.
"When you have a quarterback that's as effective as Phillip Rivers getting the ball off fast, it doesn't matter what the refs call – he's getting the ball off," said DeMarcus Ware. "When he does hold the ball, we weren't effective enough as a rush."
Mostly unhit and rarely hurried, Rivers was free to bomb away for 401 yards and three touchdowns on the Cowboys' secondary. Perhaps the only bad play of Rivers' afternoon, a pick-six thrown to Sean Lee, was the result of intense pressure from Jason Hatcher.
"They hit us with some little short passes. Gates was able to get open, and he's one of the best tight ends in the league," Hatcher said. "They did a good job of getting off the ball quick and chipping me."
Hatcher's abilities as a pass rusher have been one of the pleasant surprises of this young season, and the Chargers certainly took notice of that. With one starting guard inactive from the lineup, San Diego did plenty to occupy Hatcher and reduce him to four tackles and no sacks.
"They did a good job of keeping guys in, doubling me all night, chipping me all night," Hatcher said. "So it was a rough day, but I've got to find a way to do better – get to the quarterback even if I've got three or four people on me. I've got to find a way"
The Chargers got some help neutralizing Ware, as he bounced back and forth from the sideline to the line of scrimmage with a lower back strain.
"It's just something I had to play through," he said. "There's no excuses. But yeah it affected me a little. But I had to fight through it."
The Cowboys don't expect Ware will need an MRI on the injury.
Rivers deserves plenty of credit for his speed in getting the ball off, not to mention keeping the Cowboys defense on the field for most of the second half. The Cowboys helped him on occasion with mistakes – such as an offsides penalty on Ware to give San Diego a first down.
Again, Ware wasn't interested in making excuses.
"I don't think we were wearing down," he said. "There were some mistakes made by everybody, but we'll clean it up this week."
Whatever went wrong, both veterans agreed they'll have to correct it quickly. Peyton Manning is faster and more efficient than Rivers, and he'll be the next to test this defense.
"We've got to bounce back, man, because we've got hands down the best quarterback in the league coming in here. This guy right here, he's a scientist out there," Hatcher said, "So we've got to shake this one off quick, because if not we're going to go out there and get embarrassed."
Here are some more notes from the Cowboys' 30-21 loss to San Diego:
- What a difference one play can make. Rookie receiver Terrance Williams was well on his way to a strong starting debut, as he rebounded from an early drop to nab seven catches for 71 yards. The play that will resonate, though was his fourth quarter fumble on the goal line as he tried to score a touchdown that would cut the Chargers' lead to one score. "He's good at that kind of a play, and he was trying to get in the end zone," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. "Their guy made a good play from what I can tell." It's another bump in the road for Williams, who had a drop and a miscue that led to an interception against New York. He was also the recipient of the ill-fated third down screen pass in the Cowboys' loss to Kansas City. Despite that, the Cowboys' starters reiterated their faith in the youngster. "He's a good player. We still believe in him. He had a good game," said running back DeMarco Murray.
- Morris Claiborne was another young starter had a rough day. Rivers picked on the second-year corner repatedly en route to his 400-yard day. Claiborne said it was "a hard day," but he can't allow it to affect his confidence. He also said his shoulder injury was not the reason he struggled. "No. I'm not thinking about the injury. They just made plays, and we didn't." [embedded_ad]
- Rookie running back Joseph Randle got his first action of the year on Sunday, but he's still waiting on his first carry. Only one other running back got a touch aside from Murray's 14 carries – Lance Dunbar toted the rock once for seven yards.
- Dez Bryant wound up with two touchdown catches, but his first score gave him a streak of three games with a touchdown catch. That's the fourth time he's reached that number of consecutive scoring games.
- Bryant caught touchdowns No. 30 and No. 31 against the Chargers. That ties Doug Cosbie for 11th in Cowboys history.
- Sean Lee's 18 stops led all tacklers on the day. It's also a career high for the linebacker. Lee managed 14 tackles twice in 2012, but never more than that until Sunday.