Week 1 Game Recap: Dallas Cowboys 28, San Diego Chargers 24
What you need to know
The Cowboys opening drive ended abruptly on a botched snap leading to an early turnover that the Chargers turned into a score. Their second drive was penalty filled with two holding penalties and two false starts. Their third drive stretched into the second quarter and ended with Drew Bledsoe hitting Patrick Crayton on a 20 yard touchdown strike. On the day Bledsoe was 18 for 24 with three touchdowns and no interceptions. He was however sacked four times for 34 yards as he still has the tendency to hold the ball too long not feeling the rush.
Julius Jones had a quietly productive day running the ball as the San Diego defensive line played much of the game in the Dallas backfield. Jonesí longest run of the day, a 25 yard gain, was wiped out by a holding call. Jones did score a touchdown in the third quarter on a five yard sweep and finished the game 93 yards on 26 carries. He also had three catches for 18 yards.
Keyshawn Johnson made several nice catches on the day including one along the sidelines that led to the Jones touchdown. Keyshawn finished the afternoon with five catches for 65 yards and two touchdowns. The player that came up big for the Cowboys throughout the game was Patrick Crayton. Crayton finished the game as the Cowboys leading receiver with six catches for 89 yards and a touchdown.
The Chargers took advantage of a Cowboysí fumble on their opening drive and marched quickly down the field. Drew Brees was three of four on the drive and culminated in a two yard touchdown run by LaDainian Tomlinson. It was the 13th consecutive game Tomlinson has rushed for a touchdown tying an NFL record held by John Riggins and George Rogers.
Drew Brees was without one of his favorite targets of a year ago in Antonio Gates. Brees finished the day 18 of 35 for 209 yards and two touchdowns and two interceptions. His second interception was a back breaker in the end zone on a fourth and goal tipped ball to Aaron Glenn. Brees was sacked twice and was often under pressure.
LaDainian Tomlinson finished the day with 19 carries for 72 yards and a touchdown. The important thing in this game was the lack of use of Tomlinson in the Charger passing game. He went without a catch on the day and was targeted only once.
Keenan McCardell was Breesí favorite target on the day and finished with 9 catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns. He had a third touchdown broken up in the end zone on the Chargers final drive.
The Chargers' return teams look as though they can be explosive this year. Darren Sproles gives the team a definite home run threat averaging 36.5 yards on four kickoff returns. The team had five kickoff returns totaling 162 yards. The Chargers were penalized nine times for 62 yards.
What you ought to know
|QB Drew Bledsoe, Pass: 18 - 24 - 226 - 3 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 4 - 7 - 0|
Bledsoe still holds on to the ball too long at times but he did exactly what Bill Parcells brought him in for. He did not throw interceptions and while he was sacked four times he did make some nice throws under pressure. His favorite target on third down was Patrick Crayton but he spread the ball around completing passes to five different receivers including a nice quick out at the goal line to Keyshawn Johnson. Bledsoe became the 10th player in NFL history to throw for 40,000 yards on his career.
Romo had a huge game, especially in the second half. He started poorly, and was unable to connect with Terrell Owens in the first half. Three of his five passes to Owens were uncatchable. Romo did have some success in the first half due to Jason Witten. Whenever Romo needed a completion, he seemed to look for Witten over the middle. Witten caught six of seven targets in the first half, including three for first downs. He finished the half with an 11 yard touchdown reception and was the Cowboysí most targeted player in the half. Romo only threw ten passes in the second half, but every reception was important. All seven completions were for a first down or a touchdown. He found Terrell Owens for scores of 22 yards and 47 yards. The longest touchdown was caught by Sam Hurd for 51 yards on his only target of the second half. Romo also scored on the ground on a nine yard run.
Prescott made his first NFL start against Giants. The pass protection was solid and the game plan pointed to a conservative approach and a high percentage of throws within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. Prescott was largely accurate in the early part of the game, managing his way to three drives of 10 or more plays in the first half. However, all three drives stalled in field goal range for a paltry nine points. When forced to push the ball downfield in the fourth quarter, Prescottís accuracy became scattershot. Prescott missed a critical deep out route to Terrance Williams on third down with five minutes to play. Dallas had the ball, down a single point, with a minute remaining. Prescott missed Jason Witten on the drive, and then a costly decision by Terrance Williams in the closing seconds to turn upfield instead of out of bounds drained the clock. Prescott did not use his legs much and showed plenty of rookie rawness in terms of accuracy in the key moments.
|RB Julius Jones, Rush: 26 - 93 - 1, Rec: 3 - 18 - 0 (6 targets)|
Jones struggled at times to find holes in the Charger defense and his biggest gain of the day, a 25 yard run off left tackle was called back on a holding penalty. Also a factor in the passing game he had a 14 yard gain on a pass play in the Cowboys opening drive. Julius had 26 of the 29 carries by Cowboy running backs on the day.
Thomas saw his only action of the day on the second drive of the second quarter by the Cowboys.
Barber was used mostly as a change of pace back. He ended up with three carries for 13 yards and two catches for 13 yards. He made an impressive move to bounce to the outside to convert on a fourth and one at the Jacksonville 24 yard line. He picked up eight yards on the play but the drive ended on the missed field goal by Suisham.
Dunbar was impactful with his limited playing time, eluding defenders in the open field after receptions. On back to back catches in the first quarter, Dunbar shook free from multiple defenders. On the second, he nearly scored after a sharp jump cut. Dunbar did not see a carry against the 49ers and starter DeMarco Murray rarely left the field even late in the game.
Elliott had tough sledding in his NFL debut. While the Dallas offensive line protected Dak Prescott well in the passing game, few running lanes were paved for the No.4 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft on the ground. Elliott was a central element to Dallasí opening drive of the game, converting a short-yardage situation and catching a red zone target. It was not until the second half when Elliott had much room with which to work. His highlight runs of the game comprised of two gains of more than five yards on a single touchdown drive, including his cutback scoring jaunt in the red zone. On the positive side, Elliott was the clear lead back with 21 touches (Alfred Morris saw seven) and exclusive run of the red zone work.
McFadden was sparsely used in relief of Joseph Randle on early downs against the Giants. McFadden ran physical with an edge of power Randle cannot match. McFadden used his speed to get the edge on a crossing route reception, moving Dallas into field goal range as his play of note this week.
Morris saw minimal time behind starter Ezekiel Elliott against the Giants, but performed well with his opportunities. Morris ran hard and had three chunk gains during his small sample size of snaps. His successes were a mix of winning collisions after building up momentum through the hole and getting skinny through the line of scrimmage to daylight. Morris saw better overall run blocking on his touches than starter Ezekiel Elliott did with his. With Darren McFadden out of the lineup, Morris is the handcuff to Elliott.
Crayton had his coming out party as the Cowboys number three receiver and many of his catches on the day were drive extenders. On the Cowboys first scoring drive of the day, Crayton made two catches for 52 yards in the 80 yard scoring drive. Playing out of the slot most of the day he often was left open in the middle of the field. He showed toughness on his touchdown catch breaking two tackles on his way to the end zone. Itís too early to appoint him the new go to guy after just one game, but this guy has definite promise.
Johnson opened the season in a strong fashion making some outstanding catches on the day. He took advantage of a size mismatch and a nicely thrown ball by Bledsoe on the Cowboys game winning drive. The throw was not as good on his first touchdown as he had to reach back and pull the ball in at the goal line while getting hit. He also made a nice toe tapping catch in the third quarter that led to a Julius Jones touchdown.
Glenn had a quiet day for the Cowboys his longest gain of the day was 14 yards.
Beasley opened the season how he ended 2013, as the tough-to-cover receiver on the inside of the Dallas passing game. His rock-solid hands were on display late in the first quarter with a full-extension grab on an out route. Beasley was slippery after the catch and was Tony Romoís preferred target, over Jason Witten, on third downs.
This was Dez Bryantís first NFL game action since missing most of preseason with an ankle injury. Romo got Bryant involved early by making several quick throws to him out in the flat. Bryant held onto the passes but was not strong enough to break out of a couple DeAngelo Hall tackles. Bryant was also on the field as the Cowboys punt returner but did not have much opportunity to do anything. Romo targeted Bryant deep in double coverage and relied on Bryant throughout the game especially during the game ending drive.
It was an up-and-down game for the rookie in his first NFL game. Williams started with his most glaring error, a miscommunication with Tony Romo on what appeared to be a red zone wide receiver screen. Williams headed down the field instead, resulting in an interception nearly returned by the Giants for a touchdown. After a reception in tight coverage during Dallasí two-minute drill in the first half, Williams had an easy drop. After gaining separation on a deep in-cut, Williams awkwardly jumped for the well-thrown pass as it bounced off his chest. The completion would have put Dallas into field goal range. In the second half, Williams dropped another in-breaking route before catching a wide open target over the middle for a big gain. With Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, and Jason Witten drawing coverage ahead of Williams, he will continue to see advantageous coverage going forward. In his first game, Williams was not able to flourish in that role.
Witten was all but invisible most of the day. His only catch came on a third down play in the second quarter extending a Cowboy scoring drive. He looked to be nothing like the factor he was last year with Vinny Testaverde quarterbacking this team.
Escobar was on the field often against the Giants, but seldom used in the passing game. Of his two targets, he looked lost on one occasion. In the red zone, Escobar looked to be running the wrong route after stumbling after his break as Romoís pass sailed well off-target. His reception came on a simple comeback route, but was against tight coverage as he made a clean catch.
James Hanna is far away from replacing the banged up Witten
for the Cowboys. Hanna got only one catch and lost playing time to
Witten. Romo looked elsewhere almost every time and relied on bigger
playmakers like Austin/Ogletree/Bryant. He grabbed a short out route
for the first down but showed very little and is not quite ready to
make an impact for the Cowboys.
Cortez was four for four on extra points. He also had what may have been a touchdown saving tackle on Darren Sproles on a return.
The Cowboys rush defense was solid all day holding a premier back like LaDainian Tomlinson to 72 yards. Dat Nguyen finished the game with six tackles and Roy Williams had five.
The Cowboys gave up 209 yards passing and two touchdowns but did have two interceptions on the day. Aaron Glennís interception sealed the victory on a fourth and goal with thirty seconds remaining. Free agent acquisition Anthony Henry finished the game with ten tackles and an interception.
|QB Drew Brees, Pass: 18 - 35 - 209 - 2 TD / 2 INT, Rush: 1 - 2 - 0|
Brees playing without his favorite target of last season Antonio Gates led the team on scoring drives on four of the teams eight possessions. His interception on the last drive was on a tipped pass. Itís too early to panic as he clearly missed Gates whoíll return for Week 2. In the absence of Gates, Brees seemed to lock on to Keenan McCardell.
Rivers showed a type of poise uncharacteristic of an NFL quarterback making his first career start. Then again, with LaDainian Tomlinson sharing the backfield, he wasnít asked to do much. Rivers looked liked a seasoned veteran on a fourth quarter play when he hung in the pocket with Warren Sapp in his face and hit WR Eric Parker in full stride, double-covered, for a 38 yard gain. He hit TE Antonio Gates in the end zone two plays later. Rivers finished with a mistake-free, but paltry eight of 11 for 108 yards and a lone touchdown.
Tomlinson had a rather quiet day against the Cowboy defense as the Cowboys stacked the line in an effort to take away Tomlinsonís cut back ability. He looked like the normal Tomlinson but the Cowboys did a great job keeping him in check. His longest run was for just ten yards. It was worrisome to see him completely ignored in the passing game. He caught 53 passes last year but was not targeted at all Sunday. He did tie an NFL record currently shared by John Riggins and George Rogers by scoring a rushing touchdown in his 13th consecutive game.
The man who clears lanes for LaDainian Tomlinson carried the ball three times for six yards.
Turner had a few token touches as the Chargers ran out the clock leading into halftime and split carries with Tomlinson in the third and fourth quarters with the game well in the bag. He recorded 37 yards on ten carries including a one yard touchdown.
Sprolesí role in this game confirms what everyone has suspected for the last few weeks, and thatís that he is the clear cut backup running back to LaDainian Tomlinson. Tomlinson didnít leave the game for very long stretches at all, but Sproles saw two carries out of the backfield, neither of which gained any significant yardage.
Brinkley led all San Diego backs in offensive touches, with 13. His ten rushing attempts didnít really go anywhere as the Raiders bottled up the offensive line and prevented any holes from opening up. But out of the active backs for San Diego, Brinkley just looked the best with the ball in his hands. He didnít appear able to make anything happen on his own and the Oakland defense was very stout especially in the red zone, but if Brinkley gets his blocks he looks shifty enough to make things happen.
Gordon didn't get a huge workload in his first career game, and spent much of the second half watching San Diego air it out all over the field. He also gave up goal line work to Danny Woodhead, who had 16 touches to Gordon's 17. The split will be much closer to 50-50 than Gordon owners want to hear, but it's clear that this is going to be a rotational backfield rather than one horse. On the plus side for Gordon, he did catch three passes in the game so he may not be a complete afterthought in the passing game. In fact, the first pass attempt of the game went to Gordon. He had two significant red zone carries in the game. The first was a play up the middle where he was upended and spun to the ground. His forearm barely touched the ground; otherwise, he showed a lot of strength and burst to get into the end zone although obviously it did not count for a score. Later in the game, he fumbled the ball on a handoff up the middle, getting stripped just as he hit the pile. Fortunately for Gordon, he did get the call on San Diego's next rushing attempt. In other words, the coaches didn't punish him with a trip to the bench despite a bad turnover in his first career game.
With Melvin Gordon and a healthy Danny Woodhead in the mix, Oliver was mostly an afterthought. He is a clear backup on this team and may not have a defined role without an injury striking, but he did show his burst by hauling in a screen pass and taking it up the right side for a nice 17-yard gain in the second half.
Woodhead had an extremely quiet performance. After much preseason hype over his expanded role in the San Diego offense, he took a third seat behind both Ryan Mathews and Ronnie Brown in this one. His first touch came late in the first quarter as he leaked out of the backfield for a quick first down. He looked very spry and quick on the play, but San Diego didnít really go back to him.
McCardell was Breesí favorite target on the day. He took advantage of a blown coverage by the Cowboys on a 20 yard score in the second quarter. And repeated the trick on a 17 yard strike in the third quarter. He clearly was the guy they looked to lean on with TE Antonio Gates out.
Parkerís 33 yard catch on a fourth and 14 with 1:30 on the clock kept the Chargers alive and was his longest gain of the day. He also had two catches on the Chargers first scoring drive. He was a frequent target seeing ten passes thrown his way.
Caldwell filled the role of third receiver for the Chargers on the day. He was not a factor catching just one ball for nine yards.
Allen was extremely quiet in the early going, and a lot of that can probably be at least partly attributed to being covered by Patrick Petersons so much. Allen finally did get going a little bit in terms of volume, but never was able to break a big one either through the air or after the catch. He did manage to pick up as many yards after the catch as was possible most times, but he was clearly drawing the attention of the Arizona secondary all night. He had a chance to extend San Diego's drive on their last possession, but instead dropped a deflected pass on 4th down and 2 to go, all but ending the game and San Diego's chances. It wasn't an easy catch, as it wobbled all the way to his arms; but it is a pass that he will probably tell you he should have made.
Benjamin looks to absorb some of the targets left with the Allen injury and brought in 7 catches for 32 yards on the day. Benjamin possesses breakaway speed, but was used mainly in short and quick hit plays this afternoon. Benjamin led the team in targets with 8 and will need to step up for the Chargers going forward.
As the summer went along, Johnson became a very popular sleeper choice amongst fantasy owners. In his first action with his new team, he rewarded those who took a chance on him. He was the clear number two option to Keenan Allen, and caught every single pass thrown his way. He was looked to in all kinds of critical situations (third down, red zone, etc). Johnson found the end zone on a crossing route out of the slot. He juggled the ball a bit, then lunged into the end zone for the score. Later in the game, Johnson again came very close to finding the end zone. He took a quick look down to the goal line, and Danny Woodhead converted for a touchdown later in the drive.
Williams had 2 catches for 71 yards on 5 targets today and becomes an interesting name going forward with the injury to Allen. Williams has already almost matched his 90 total yards from last year and figures to see a lot more action. Williams reeled in a 38-yard pass from Rivers in the longest play from scrimmage for the Chargers on the day. Williams has the size and speed to make a difference for the Chargers this year but needs to work on his route running and chemistry with Rivers.
Peele played for the suspended Antonio Gates and made several nice attempts but overall had a quiet game for the Chargers.
Gates was targeted only twice in the game, but caught both balls for 26 yards and a touchdown. QB Phillip Rivers only threw 11 passes in the game and his only two red zone attempts went to tight ends.
Nate Kaeding was three for three on extra points and had a 33 yard field goal.
The Chargers' rush defense was solid limiting the Cowboys to 109 yards on 33 carries. The offensive line spent a good amount of time in the backfield of the Cowboys stifling any big gains by Julius Jones.
The Chargers' pass defense yielded only 226 yards passing to the Cowboys but did allow 3 touchdown passes by Drew Bledsoe. They often pressured Bledsoe and did have four sacks but no interceptions and a number of costly penalties allowed drives to continue. A roughing the passer penalty on Luis Castillo on a third and ten led to a first down on a third quarter scoring drive by the Cowboys. Quentin Jammerís holding penalty on a third and 16 from the Charger 37 also led to a Cowboysí touchdown.