After falling to the defending champion Buccaneers in their season opener last week, the Cowboys will get another shot at their first win on the season when they take on Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium at 3:25 on Sunday afternoon.
Following an eventful week off the field, the Cowboys will be without several key starters for the foreseeable future with the likes of La’el Collins, Michael Gallup, Randy Gregory and Demarcus Lawrence all out with a suspension or injury.
Cowboys/Chargers recent meetings
11/23/2017: Chargers 28 @ Cowboys 6
9/29/2013: Cowboys 21 @ Chargers 30
12/13/2009: Chargers 20 @ Cowboys 17
Three keys to the game:
Taking the “next man up” cliche seriously and not using the injuries as an excuse
While the Cowboys have certainly caught a few bad breaks with injuries to significant players early this season, they’re not the only team that is going to face that this season. Too often over the past couple of decades of disappointing football, the Cowboys haven’t been able to make the adjustments necessary to overcome the adversity that comes with a long NFL season and have used injuries as an excuse for their underwhelming season.
2021 is already offering them another opportunity to face that issue head on, how will they respond?
The team should get top guard Zack Martin back on their offensive line this week after missing the opener due to COVID-19, but the aforementioned loss of La’el Collins for the next five games is an immediate hit to any enthusiasm generated by Martin’s return.
The offense was still able to move the ball through the air very well in the second half of the game without Michael Gallup last week, but the Chargers will surely be prepared to do all it will take to slow down Dallas’ aerial attack and make Ezekiel Elliott prove that last week wasn’t a fluke.
Cashing in on red zone opportunities
Dallas was able to move the ball up and down the field on offense in Tampa last week, but struggled in the red zone. Following scoring red zone touchdowns at just a 50% clip last season, Dallas got it in the end zone just 25% of the time of their opportunities inside the 20 in week one.
Cowboys’ red zone execution pic.twitter.com/vXCegNjXuj
— Stadium (@Stadium) September 10, 2021
Maybe finishing off just one more drive with a touchdown could have been what put Dallas over the top in week one, but they certainly need to figure out how to still successfully move the ball once they get deep into enemy territory. With the Cowboys defense badly deflated without much pass rush help due to injury, they cannot afford to come away with just three points (if that) when they have seven right in front of them.
Coming up with a way for the defense to at least keep the team in the game
The Dallas defense had plenty of positives to take from game one, but their already timid pass rush being without Lawrence and Gregory is absolutely terrifying to think of whenever a QB like Justin Herbert is on the other side ready to make them pay.
The Cowboys were able to survive the lack of a pass rush last week thanks to their success on offense and four takeaways created, including two coming with a Buccaneer player trying to make a play in the end zone. This isn’t a formula that can be counted on every week, so it will be fascinating to see what kind of adjustments/lineup rotations that Dan Quinn makes to keep this defense afloat on Sunday afternoon.
Elsewhere in the NFC East this weekend:
NYG @WFT on Thursday night (pending)
SF @ PHI – 12 PM Sunday
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