FRISCO, Texas – From my vantage point in our studios at The Star, here are some notes on what I thought went wrong for the Cowboys in this loss to the Chargers.
- I'm not really sure if it was Xavier Woods or Jeff Heath that was supposed carry Travis Benjamin down the middle of the field on that 46-yard gain in the first quarter. From the initial view it appeared that Woods' eyes were focused on Hunter Henry underneath and Heath was adjusting as if Woods was going to give him help from that side. All of the other receivers were covered with the exception of Benjamin, who Rivers was able to find.
- Dak Prescott had no chance on the opening drive, when he was sacked by Corey Luiget. The routes were crossing ones that would have taken much better blocking up front in order to get the ball out. Both Zack Martin and La'el Collins were defeated badly off the snap by Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. Even when Prescott climbed forward in the pocket to avoid Bosa and Ingram, Luiget was right there waiting for him after disposing of Travis Frederick.
- I initially thought that Justin Durant had blown the coverage of Hunter Henry on a crossing route for 27 yards. But there must have been a miscommunication, because both Orlando Scandrick and Damien Wilson blitzed from the same side, leaving Jeff Cumberland and Austin Ekeler wide open. Both Hitchens and Durant were looking at those guys as Henry worked behind them. Xavier Woods saw what was happening but was too late to react.
- Dak Prescott needed to hit Jason Witten quickly over the middle if he wanted to avoid the Chargers' second sack. Prescott appeared that he wanted to go in that direction, but he didn't pull the trigger. There were no other options open on the play, and even if he would have escaped, his only other option was try and run for the first down -- which he was unable to do.
- Heck of a read by Jourdan Lewis to play Antonio Gates in the middle of the field. Lewis came off his man in order to try and help Anthony Hitchens. Philip Rivers overshot Gates and Lewis tried to play the ball in the sun. What might have hurt him was while putting himself in position, he was looking down at Gates and then had to flash his eyes up to find the ball -- which was coming into that position of the field that had those pockets of sunlight.
- It's a shame that Anthony Brown had to hug Keenen Allen off the line on that fourth down play. Brown was in excellent position on Allen until he put his right arm around the back and pulled his shoulder. The official right on the play did not make the call – it was the one further up the field. Bad missed opportunity to get off the field right there.
- I don't quite know what was going on between Anthony Brown and Damien Wilson on the 22-yard crossing route to Hunter Henry that the Chargers used to convert on third down. It appeared that Wilson was in man coverage on Melvin Gordon, while Brown was locked onto Henry to cover for Byron Jones on the blitz. Wilson gave Henry a shoulder to try and slow him up, but Brown was so far off of him that Rivers had an easy throw to make. After the play, you could see Brown screaming at Wilson that there was some type of miscommunication on the play.
- Senseless penalty by Terrance Williams right before the half on the offensive pass interference. He clearly pushed off on the play for no reason. The call took the offense from their 46-yard line all the way back to the 36. Prescott had a couple of chances to maybe hit Dez Bryant down the middle of the field, but he chose to take the safe passes underneath to Jason Witten and it just wasn't enough.
- The Chargers knew what they were doing when they took Austin Ekeler and flexed him wide against Justin Durant on third down. The better adjustment for the Cowboys might have been to take Anthony Hitchens and let him walk outside with Ekeler. There was no way that Durant was going to be able to make that play in space with Ekeler running the stutter-go. It was well-designed and executed for the perfect situation in the game.
- Maybe a little rust with Tyron Smith on his holding call? Smith beat Darius Philon so quickly inside that his left hand just naturally went around Philon's shoulder. If Smith had somehow managed to just continue hard to the inside, he would have never hooked him. Once Smith adjusted to turn him, that made it really easy for the official to make the call. Prescott didn't need his block and the fact that it happened in space the way it did was unfortunate, because it took points off the board.
- Nice adjustment by Philip Rivers to work Tyrell Williams underneath using Keenan Allen and Antonio Gates as a picks to pick up a third and long. Rivers saw Anthony Brown playing at depth and knew that he had a chance to bring Williams underneath to pick up the first down. There was no way that Brown was able to get to Williams, especially after having to run through all that trash. The play resulted in a 31-yard gain and a first down.
- I have said it before and I'll say it again, when Dak Prescott misses throws on the move, it's a bad sign. The Chargers had the two-point play defended well. Cole Beasley was covered in the flat well by Desmond King. Where the Chargers were in trouble is when they lost Terrance Williams, who had done a nice job of finding space. Prescott, falling backward, tried to fit the ball over the top to Williams. What Prescott might have seen was Jaheel Addae underneath Williams and felt like he needed to go high with the ball. Regardless, it wasn't a good throw and it was a missed opportunity.