The Dallas Cowboys bounced back from a scrappy, penalty-filled loss to the Denver Broncos to look much better in a win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Saturday night.
A complete team win, the offense, defense and special teams all did things to lead the team to success. Whether it was scoring points directly like the special teams unit was able to do, creating turnovers to create scores like Trysten Hill did for the defense, or just not making bad plays to change momentum like the offense could. Overall, it was a pretty complete game.
However, there are always things that need to be improved, so coaches will look at the good and the bad in each part of the game. Here’s a look at the studs and play mistakes coaches might notice from the Cowboys’ win over the Chargers.
Studs: The Comeback Game
(AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
KaVontae Turpin’s 184 punt return yards and two touchdowns certainly made him the man of the game Saturday, but special team scores happen when the unit creates space for the punt returner. For Dallas, there are plenty of players vying for roster spots, and special teams play is usually a key piece of the team-building puzzle.
On the return for example, the wall was set up by Devin Harper, Peyton Hendershot and Malik Davis. As Turpin picked his route, Davis even turned his man to open a lane that was then sealed on the other side by Malik Jefferson. That took Turpin to the second level, but a double team block by the combination of Jake Ferguson and Sean McKeon opened up a path to the outside while trapping the kicker inside and sending Turpin all the way to the end zone.
The punt return TD was definitely started because of a smart move by Turpin after Quandre Mosley allowed his man to get past him. Once Turpin got past the initial free rusher, the blocks started to sync up. Isaac Taylor-Stuart, Aaron Shampklin and Sean McKeon sealed the left side for Turpin, then Mosley came back into the game to make a big block that allowed the play to go back the other way. That’s where Storey Jackson and Peyton Hendershot made their blocks to set the stage for the touchdown drive.
The punt return drives were huge, allowing the Cowboys to score 14 points without running a single offensive play. The special teams unit won the Cowboys that game.
Guy: Jaylen Tolbert
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
When a game has enough impact, it can be the difference between being a stud or a dud. 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 preseason game, that’s enough to be a star of the game.
Unfortunately for Tolbert, a mental error prevented him from making that kind of play, and questions are starting to swirl about whether he’s dealing with a problem that’s already showing up under the spotlight.
With 9:48 left in the second quarter, the Dallas offense found itself at the four-yard line, running the eighth play of a drive, trying to cap it with a score. The team was 12, with the two receivers on the right and Tolbert in the slot. QB Cooper Rush made a play action pass that moved the linebackers up enough for Tolbert to get to them for an easy pitch and TD catch. The play worked so well that the Chargers broadcast team called it a touchdown before the referee ran with the incomplete call.
Tolbert had a mental error and a lack of concentration caused him to miss his second leg in bounds in a game he should have made 99 times in 100 attempts.
A simple toe-pull and Tolbert is a star, but instead he definitely lands in the dud category. Plays like these need to be made when 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 it’s not a common occurrence.
Nails: Defensive rush
August 20, 2022. Inglewood, California, USA. Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Easton Stick (2) throws 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 on 22 carries for 39 yards and no scores, the Dallas defense turned its eyes to the Los Angeles Chargers rushing attack. Again they did not disappoint, holding them to just 77 yards on 25 attempts, again a goose egg in the score column.While the Chargers’ 3.1 yards per carry average isn’t the same as the 1.8 average the defense also averaged in Denver, Los Angeles was boosted by two QB struggles on near-sack plays that lead to 24 yards. Those were the most yards allowed by any rusher on the night, and without it the Chargers are down 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 commanding performance and one the team hopes it can repeat in the regular season.
Duds: Pass defense
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
The Dallas defense as a whole had a solid game with three sacks, six tackles for loss, seven QB hits and eight pass deflections. Pass coverage was not up to standard though overall against the Chargers passing game.
Los Angeles’ quarterbacks combined for 219 yards, two touchdowns and a combined 81.9 QB rating. They were able to connect with Michael Bandy eight times out of nine targets for 69 yards and a TD. He seemed to be uncovered the whole time for the Chargers offense. Joshua Palmer averaged 25 yards per catch on three receptions and his own score as well. Nahshon Wright and Kelvin Joseph are still struggling, and while he hasn’t been bad, DaRon Bland hasn’t had the consistent success he showed in Week 1 against the Broncos.
This helped the Chargers gain time of possession and have a third-low conversion rate of nearly fifty percent with 7 of 15 conversions being successful. The starting corners for Dallas, Trevon Diggs, Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis are all locked in and very good, but the depth behind them is a complete unknown with one more preseason game to go.
You can find Mike Crum on Twitter @cdpiglet or on Youtube at Across the Cowboys Podcast.
The story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire