The Los Angeles Chargers were limited to six points in three second-half trips to the red zone, Justin Herbert had two passes intercepted and Tristan Vizcaino missed a 44-yard field goal attempt in a 20-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys Sunday at SoFi Stadium.
Greg Zuerlein kicked the game-winning 56-yard field goal as time expired, three minutes, 54 seconds after Vizcaino tied the score with a 29-yard field goal. The Chargers appeared to have taken the lead four plays earlier, but Herbert’s 2-yard touchdown pass to Jared Cook was nullified by an illegal shift penalty.
Referee Tony Corrente explained to pool reporter Jeff Miller of the Los Angeles Times after the game that Cook had gone in motion before Mike Williams was in a set position.
“All 11 players have to be set simultaneously, at least for a second, before they can go into a shift, or they can go into motion,” Corrente said.
Vizcaino kicked a 32-yard field goal on the opening possession of the second half where the Chargers had a first down on Dallas’ 13-yard line, but their next three plays were a 2-yard pass by Herbert to Austin Ekeler, and a 1-yard run and incomplete pass by Herbert.
The Chargers’ drove to the Cowboys’ 9-yard line on their next possession, but Herbert’s third-down pass was intercepted in the end zone by Damontae Kazee.
Dallas took a 17-14 lead on the ensuing drive on Zuerlein’s 34-yard field, its first points since the first quarter. The field goal came one play after Dak Prescott fumbled when he was sacked by linebacker Kyler Fackrell for an 8-yard loss, but Cowboys guard Zack Martin recovered the ball.
In a game where Dallas had the only punt, the Chargers were outgained 419 yards to 408 and trailed 25-24 in first downs but led 30:57-29:03 in the time of possession before a crowd announced at 70,240 for the Chargers’ first regular-season game at SoFi Stadium with fans present.
The Chargers played at SoFi Stadium in 2020, but fans were not permitted in an attempt to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
The Cowboys (1-1) had an NFL-record tying 13 first downs in the first quarter, in which they led 11:10-3:50 in time of possession. The Chargers (1-1) had a 10:35-4:25 lead in time of possession in the third quarter, in which they had eight first downs to Dallas’ four.
Facing a Cowboys’ defense that was without three starters because of injury or illness, Herbert completed 31 of 41 passes for 338 yards and one touchdown, was sacked twice and had an 87.2 passer rating. It was the 10th time in his 17-game NFL career Herbert exceed the 300-yard mark.
Prescott completed 23 of 27 passes for 237 yards with one interception for a 87.8 passer rating. He was sacked twice.
Dallas opened the scoring on the opening possession, driving 78 yards on 15 plays in 6:51, culminating with Tony Pollard’s 4-yard touchdown run. The drive was extended on linebacker Kyzir White’s 4-yard pass interference penalty on a fourth-and-1 play from the Cowboys’ 48-yard line on a play Prescott threw a short incomplete pass.
Pollard rushed for a game-high 109 yards, the second-most of his three-season NFL career, on 13 carries.
The Chargers gained 42 yards on their first two plays — a 20-yard run by Ekeler and a 22-yard pass by Herbert to Keenan Allen. The drive ended on the third play when Herbert’s pass was intercepted by cornerback Trevon Diggs at the Cowboys’ 20-yard line.
Dallas committed its lone turnover three plays later, an interception of a Prescott pass by rookie cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. at the Chargers’ 29-yard line. The second-round draft choice out of Florida State returned the ball 26 yards on his first NFL interception to the Cowboys’ 45-yard line.
Vizcaino kicked a 46-yard field goal five plays later.
Dallas took a 14-3 lead on the next series on Ezekiel Elliott’s 5-yard touchdown run. Prescott was three-for-three for 35 yards and Pollard ran twice for 22 yards on the seven-play, 75-yard drive.
The only points in the second quarter came on Herbert’s 12-yard touchdown pass to Williams and Ekeler’s run for the two-point conversion.
Vizcaino’s 44-yard field goal attempt with three seconds left in the half hit the left upright.
The Cowboys got the ball on their own 49-yard line following the miss and a 15-yard facemask penalty against Chargers’ tackle Trey Pipkins on the field goal attempt. Prescott completed a 34-yard pass to CeeDee Lamb to the Chargers’ 17-yard line, who lateraled to Elliott, who was pushed out of bounds at the Chargers’ 3-yard line by Derwin James as the half ended.
The Chargers were seeking to begin a season 2-0 for the first time since 2012. Brandon Staley was attempting to join Marty Schottenheimer as the second of the Chargers’ 17 coaches — including two interim coaches — to win both of their first two games with the team.