By Shawn S. Lealos
After the Dallas Cowboys Week 4 game, the team looks like nothing more than a .500 franchise, but in the NFC East, that still makes them the best team of the batch. One week after they looked like powerhouses against the St. Louis Rams, the Cowboys lost to the San Diego Chargers, 30-21.
This is the third year in a row, and the fourth time in the last five years, that Dallas has opened the season 2-2, and that causes a lot of worries that this year’s team, despite flashes of greatness, might be no better than average. While their loss to Kansas City doesn’t look as bad as many believed, the Chargers have done little this season to be seen as a major league contender.
Here is a look at the Dallas Cowboys team grades against the San Diego Chargers (2-2).
Offense Grade: C
The Cowboys offense looked pretty solid when they went into halftime with a 21-13 lead, but they unraveled and the offense was completely shut out in the second half. Meanwhile, the Chargers scored the two touchdowns they needed to put the game out of reach.
Tony Romo completed 27 of 37 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns with no turnovers, while Dez Bryant continued to play like a star with six receptions for 81 yards, including both Cowboys touchdowns. However, Dallas really missed Miles Austin in the lineup and his replacement, rookie Terrance Williams, fumbled the ball into the end zone on an attempted scoring drive in the fourth quarter to end the Cowboys chances.
Honestly, if Williams had not fumbled that ball, Dallas likely would have scored the winning touchdown, and only down by two points, they could have played smarter at the end with only a field goal needed to win the game. Williams can’t be held completely responsible because, as is becoming the norm, Bryant is a first half warrior, but disappears in the second half of games.
It also didn’t help that, despite leading for much of the first half, DeMarco Murray only had 14 carries in the game, despite gaining 5.0 yards per run for a respectable 70 yards. If Dallas is to make it very far this season, they need to play stronger in every quarter and learn that running the ball is a good thing.
Defense Grade: D
The defense, which has been playing decent through the first three games, was completely responsible for the loss of this game. Ryan Mathews has been a huge disappointment in the NFL, but he seemed to run at will against the Cowboys defensive line. He only finished with 62 yards on 19 carries, much less than it seemed by watching him play, but he was moving the chains.
The big star in this game was former New England Patriots running back Danny Woodhead, who ran for 32 yards and caught five passes for another 54 yards and two of the Chargers touchdowns. Philip Rivers looked like a world-beater in this game as well, with 401 passing yards and three touchdowns while only tossing one interception. Rivers is the second man to throw for over 400 yards against Dallas this season after Eli Manning, shredding the Cowboys defensive backfield.
Antonio Gates was dominant, with 10 receptions for 136 yards and a touchdown, making the linebacker corps, normally a strength, look horrendous. With Anthony Spencer on the IR, George Selvie leaving this game with an injury, and DeMarcus Ware playing at half strength thanks to his injuries, this team will lose a lot of games if the offense doesn’t score a lot of points.
San Diego finished with 506 yards of total offense and held the ball for over 34 minutes to put the game away.
Special Teams Grade: C
Dan Bailey only attempted one field goal, and missed it wide right, but can be forgiven since it was from 56 yards out. He hit all three of his extra points.
The kicking game was solid, as the Cowboys only allowed one punt return in their five punts, and that only went for 12 yards. Dwayne Harris did a pretty good job again as the Cowboys kick returner, bringing out three kickoffs for a 28.3-yard average and one punt for 38 yards. It could have been better, but the special teams was not the reason Dallas lost.
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Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2000 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. He writes for a variety of national publications and has over 15 years of sports journalism experience. Follow Shawn on Twitter @sslealos. Examiner.com.