Greg Zuerlein kicks Cowboys to victory in sloppy win over Chargers

·3-min read

The shootout in SoCal never materialized Sunday. 

A game featuring two of the NFL's most prolific young quarterbacks got bogged down by penalties, mistakes and second-half field goals. Fittingly, it ended with a 56-yard field goal from kicker Greg Zuerlein as the Dallas Cowboys topped the Los Angeles Chargers, 20-17.

With the win, the Cowboys avoided digging an 0-2 hole to start the season while the Chargers fell to 1-1 and let a winnable game at home slip away. 

Cowboys win without a Dak TD

The Cowboys won without a touchdown pass from Dak Prescott, as Dallas was content to run its offense through running backs Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. The Cowboys struck first with a 4-yard touchdown run by Pollard on their opening drive and expanded to a 14-3 lead with a 5-yard run by Elliott late in the first quarter. 

The Chargers found the end zone on a 12-yard pass from Justin Herbert to Mike Williams late in the first half and cut their deficit to 14-11 with a successful two-point conversion. But in a game where the Chargers were expected to feast on a hobbled Cowboys defense, they wouldn't find the end zone again. At least on plays that weren't overturned. 

It wasn't always pretty, but Dak Prescott and the Cowboys left SoFi Stadium with their first win of the season. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis )
It wasn't always pretty, but Dak Prescott and the Cowboys left SoFi Stadium with their first win of the season. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis )

Penalties, mistakes doom Chargers

Herbert thew two more touchdowns in the second half, but both scores were nullified by penalties. The Chargers appeared to take a 21-14 lead late in the third quarter on a 36-yard strike from Herbert to tight end Donald Parham Jr., but a borderline holding call in the backfield negated the score. 

The Chargers rallied to advance to the red zone, but the drive ended with a Herbert interception to Damontae Kazee in the end zone. The Cowboys countered with a 64-yard drive that stalled at the 16-yard line, resulting in a Zuerlein field goal to take a 17-14 lead. 

The Chargers again appeared to take the lead late in the fourth after reaching first-and-goal at the 2-yard line. Herbert found tight end Jared Cook for the short touchdown that would have given Los Angeles a 21-17 lead. But an illegal shift wiped that touchdown out too. 

After officials ruled that this play was an 18-yard sack of Herbert instead of an incomplete pass, the Chargers ended up settling for a Tristan Vizcaino field goal to tie the game at 17-17. 

The Cowboys got the ball back with 3:54 remaining and picked up just enough yardage for Zuerlein to hit the game-winning field goal as time expired. Neither team found the end zone after halftime.

Dallas picked up the win despite the pedestrian effort from Prescott, who completed 23 of 27 pass attempts for 237 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. Pollard — not Elliott — led the offense with 109 rushing yards on 13 carries and a touchdown. Elliott rushed 16 times for 71 yards and a score. 

Herbert saw a frustrating day end with 338 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions on a 31-of-41 effort. He repeatedly led the Chargers deep into Cowboys territory, but Los Angeles managed to find the end zone just once.

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