In a battle between two of the NFL’s most high-octane offenses, both units looked to make a statement early in week 2 of the season.
Greg Zuerlein made the game-winning 56-yard field goal as time expired to give the Dallas Cowboys a 20-17 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday afternoon at So-Fi Stadium.
Dak Prescott led the Cowboys on an 11 play 49-yard drive that set up his long-range kicker with a chance to close the game. He did just that.
“I mean, that’s what you do it for, for the ball in your hands for a chance to go win,” said Prescott. “I was talking to the offense in the huddle that now we’ve got the game in a position that we wanted. We were able to capitalize, get into field goal range and let special teams go out there and do their job.”
Prescott completed 23 of 27 passes for 237 yards and an interception but consistently led positive drives when his team needed it most.
Tony Pollard rushed for 109 yards on 13 carries scoring a touchdown, Ezekiel Elliott ran for 71 yards and a score for Dallas. CeeDee Lamb recorded eight receptions for 81 yards and Amari Cooper was held in check throughout the game with three catches for 24 yards.
Los Angeles (1-1) committed 12 penalties for 99 yards, while Dallas (1-1) committed eight penalties for 76 yards.
“This game was about the Chargers,” coach Brandon Staley said. “All the other stuff, I don’t really want to talk about … We didn’t play a clean enough game to win.”
“We’ll grow from this,” Staley added, “because, with all that said, we’re in the fourth quarter, at the very end, against a very good team with a chance to win.”
Justin Herbert recorded his 10th career 300-yard game and completed 31 of 41 passes for 338 yards and a touchdown but added two interceptions. In a losing effort, he also tied for the most yards by a quarterback in his first two seasons.
Keenan Allen led the Chargers with four receptions for 108 yards, Mike Williams had seven for 91 and a score. Austin Ekeler totaled 115 yards on 18 touches.
Dallas set the tone in the first quarter and found the endzone on a 15 play 78-yard drive capped off by a four-yard rushing score by Pollard.
Tristan Vizcaino made a 46-yard field goal to cut the Chargers deficit to 7-3, only before Elliott recorded his first score of the season with a five-yard rush to extend the Cowboys lead to 14-3 with 17 seconds remaining in the first.
Herbert responded in the second, leading a 10 play 75-yard drive that ended with Williams scoring a 12-yard touchdown. The Chargers stayed aggressive and decided to go for two, and Ekeler converted the two-point conversion to trail 14-11 at halftime.
Vizcaino converted a 32-yard field goal in the third to tie the game at 14-14, but costly mistakes were too much for the Chargers to overcome.
Herbert led the Chargers on a lengthy drive looking to find the end zone but instead was picked off by Da’Montae Kazee at the 9-yard line with 10 seconds left in the period.
“I gotta be smart,” Herbert said on the interceptions. “I got to see when he goes down. I got to go to my next read.”
The Chargers thought they had a brief lead when Herbert found Jared Cook on a two-yard score in the fourth, but the play was nullified by a motion penalty wiping the points away.
“Fundamentally we just had some calls and some penalties that got brought back, and some turnovers, and I can’t turn the ball over in the red zone like that and expect to win,” added Herbert.
Instead, Vizcaino buried a 29-yard field goal after being backed up by the flag, but it was Zuerlein who made the game winning 56-yard field goal as time expired to give the Cowboys a 20-17 road victory.
“We stayed together,” Staley said. “We had a chance in the fourth quarter, OK? And there wasn’t anybody on our sideline that did not believe that we were going to win. And that’s a big part of the NFL.
“The other part of the NFL is you’re going to lose tight games like this because most of the games against really good teams come down to the end. And we lost a tight one today, OK? So, what we need to do is learn why we lost and then be able to come back tomorrow, get rested up and learn from it,” Staley added.
The Chargers will next travel to take on the defending AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs (1-1) next Sunday.