The Dallas Cowboys bounced back from an unruly, penalty-filled loss to the Denver Broncos to look much better in a win over the Los Angeles Chargers Saturday night.
A complete team victory, offense, defense and special teams did things to guide the team to success. Whether scoring points directly like the special team unit was able to do, creating turnovers to set up scores like Trysten Hill for the defense, or just not making bad plays to change momentum like the offense was able to do. All in all, it was a very complete game.
However, there are always things to improve, so coaches will look at the good and the bad in every part of the game. Here’s a look at the game details that coaches might notice in the Cowboys’ victory over the Chargers.
Studs: the game back
(AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
KaVontae Turpin, his 184 return yards and two touchdowns definitely made him the player of Saturday’s game, but special team scores come when the drive creates space for the returner to maneuver. For Dallas, there are many players vying for roster spots, and special teams play is often a key part of the team-building puzzle.
On kickback, for example, the barrier was put up by Devin Harper, Peyton Hendershot and Malik Davis. As Turpin chose his route, Davis even turned his man around to open a lane that was sealed in the other direction by Malik Jefferson. That took Turpin to the second tier, but a double team block from the Jake Ferguson and Sean McKeon combo opened a path to the outside as he hooked the kicker on the inside and sent Turpin into the end zone.
The TD punt return definitely started because of a nifty move by Turpin, after Quandre Mosley allowed his man to get past him. As Turpin passed the initial free rusher, the blocks began to sync up. Isaac Taylor-Stuart, Aaron Shampklin and Sean McKeon closed out the left side for Turpin, so Mosley got back into play to make a big block that allowed the play to come back in the other direction. It was here that Storey Jackson and Peyton Hendershot made their blocks to open it up for the breakaway touchdown.
Return units came in huge, allowing the Cowboys to score 14 points without executing a single offensive play. The special team unit beat the Cowboys in this game.
Dud: Jalen Tolbert
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
When a play is impactful enough, it can be the difference between a player being a stallion or a failure. Tolbert could have left the Chargers game with a stat line of three receptions on four targets, for 29 yards and a touchdown. For a pre-season game, that’s enough to be a game star.
Unfortunately for Tolbert, a mental error has prevented him from having this type of game and questions are starting to arise as to whether he’s already having a problem coming into the spotlight.
With 9:48 left in the second quarter, the Dallas offense found itself at the four-yard line, executing the eighth play of a drive, trying to cap it off with a score. The team was down to 12 people, with the two receivers on the right and Tolbert in the slot. QB Cooper Rush made a play action pass that moved the linebackers enough for Tolbert to get behind them for an easy pitch and take the TD. The play worked so well that the Chargers broadcast team called it a touchdown before the referee called in with the incomplete call.
Tolbert had a mental error, and his lack of concentration caused him to miss his second foot in a play he was supposed to make 99 times in 100 attempts.
A simple drag of the foot and Tolbert is a star performer, but instead he definitely falls into the failure category. Plays like this should be made when the game results start to count, especially from one of the top two or three receivers on the depth chart. The team needs to train him so this doesn’t become a regular occurrence.
Studs: Racing Defense
August 20, 2022; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Easton Stick (2) pitches the ball against the Dallas Cowboys in the first half at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
After completely shutting down the Denver Broncos with 22 carries for 39 yards and no scoring, the Dallas defense turned its eyes to the Los Angeles Chargers offense. They again didn’t disappoint, keeping them just 77 yards out of 25 tries, and again another goose egg in the scoring column.While the Chargers’ 3.1 yard average isn’t the same as the 1.8 average that the Denver defense also had, Los Angeles was bolstered by two QB disputes on near-sack plays that led to 24 yards. That was the most yards allowed for any runner on the night, and without it the Chargers drop to just 2.3 yards per carry.
Dallas’ defense lived behind the line of scrimmage all night, totaling six tackles for a loss as well. It was another dominant performance and something the team hopes it can replicate in the regular season as well.
Failures: Pass defense
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Dallas’ general defense had a good game with three sacks, six tackles for the loss, seven QB hits and eight pass deflections. Pass coverage was not up to standard, though overall against the Chargers’ passing game.
The Los Angeles quarterbacks had 219 yards, two touchdowns and a combined QB rating of 81.9. They were able to connect with Michael Bandy eight times on nine targets for 69 yards and a touchdown. He seemed to be discovered all the time by the Chargers’ attack. Joshua Palmer averaged 25 yards per reception on three catches and his own score as well. Nahshon Wright and Kelvin Joseph are still fighting, and while it wasn’t bad, DaRon Bland didn’t have the continued success he showed in his first week against the Broncos.
This helped the Chargers gain possession time and have a nearly fifty percent conversion rate on 7 out of 15 successful conversions. The opening corners for Dallas, Trevon Diggs, Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis are all locked and they are all very good, but the depth behind them is completely unknown with just one more pre-season game to go.
You can find Mike Crum on Twitter @cdpiglet or on Youtube on the Across the Cowboys Podcast.
Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire