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5 Takeaways: Chargers Lament Missed Chances in Primetime Loss

5T Week 6

The Bolts are 2-3 following a 20-17 loss to Dallas on Monday Night Football.

Here are five takeaways from Week 6:

1. Bolts offense misses opportunities

The Chargers had a chance to go win the game Monday night in primetime.

The magical final drive never happened, as Justin Herbert was sacked on second down before he threw a third-down interception.

The end result was a three-point loss, as all of the Chargers losses this season have come by a combined eight points.

"We're 100 percent expecting to go down there and win the game," Austin Ekeler said.

But with the spotlight on the final possession, Herbert's focus was instead on a pair of missed throws to Keenan Allen earlier in the contest.

"Keenan ran two great routes and that's on me as a quarterback," Herbert said. "We had those explosive opportunities. We have to capitalize on those."

The first came late in the second quarter, when the quarterback misfired to Allen down the Cowboys sideline. The potential big gain likely would have put the Bolts in field goal range with a chance to at least tie the game at 10 before halftime.

The second missed chance came a few minutes into the fourth quarter. Allen ran an out-and-up and didn't have a defender within a few yards of him. A clean throw might have meant a touchdown.

Instead, the ball sailed high and hit the turf.

"He missed Keenan on the double-move, but that's just part of ball. He definitely gave us a chance to win in the game," said Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley. "He competed. We were right there at the end. We have to put this one behind us and get moving."

Herbert completed 22 of 37 passes for 227 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. His passer rating was 84.0, his second-lowest mark of the season.

"I missed a couple receivers, threw some bad passes," Herbert said. "A lot left out there … so there's a lot to work on and improve on."

2. Defense rues 3rd-down chances

Entering the fourth quarter Monday night, the Bolts defense had allowed just two third-down conversions to Dallas on eight total tries.

But the final stanza began auspiciously as the Cowboys faced third-and-11 on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Dak Prescott evaded pressure in the pocket and found Tony Pollard in the middle of the field. A broken tackle later, the Cowboys had picked up 60 yards.

"The throw to Pollard was one of those fluke plays off of a scramble where we have him. Give credit to Dak, he made a big play there," Staley said.

The Bolts then endured a nightmarish final quarter on third downs the rest of the way.

On third-and-18 from the Dallas 17, the Bolts bottled up the receivers and forced Prescott to scramble for nine yards. But, instead of getting the ball back, the Chargers were whistled for two different infractions as Dallas moved the chains with an automatic first down.

Four plays later, Dallas hit an 18-yard gain on third-and-6 near midfield. A few plays later, it was a third-and-9 conversion for 11 yards through the air.

"We just have to play better," said Asante Samuel, Jr.. "We always play hard and play with intent … we just have to finish off the game."

Dean Marlowe added: "We had them behind the sticks … them converting those is tough. They found a way to make plays … they made one more play than we did."

Prescott's final third-down pass was incomplete, but the damage had been done. Dallas kicked a 39-yard field goal that eventually proved to be the game winner.

"They made a couple of plays, but I wouldn't change any of the calls," Staley said. "We were in really good defenses for the matchups that they have at receiver, and, obviously, against a mobile quarterback — we rushed five on one of them. We just didn't make the plays down the stretch to win on defense."

Overall, the Chargers stopped Dallas on eight of 13 tries on third downs.

But the ones they didn't, three of which came in the fourth quarter, came back to burn the Bolts.

"I feel like, obviously, when we do good on first and second down … get third-and-manageable … it's favorable for us. That's when we got to get off the field," said Eric Kendricks. "There were some third and longs in there that we gave up, can't do that.

He later added: "But it always comes down to the little things in football. Especially the last five games, it's always the little details. That's the NFL for you. Got a lot to build on, but third downs, man."

Derwin James, Jr. said: "The chances are in the favor of the defense so we've got to keep just start winning those downs."

Browse through live action photos of the Bolts Week 6 matchup against the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football at SoFi Stadium.

3. Run game stymies offense

As mentioned above, a sack on Herbert help thwart the Chargers chance in the final two minutes.

It came from Micah Parsons, a player the Bolts talked about all week as a player who could change the game.

The play was actually the lone sack on Herbert all game, but he was hit eight total times, according to game stats.

The Chargers credited the Cowboys in the postgame locker room.

"They have a really good front. It's widely documented. They are one of the top pass-rush units in the league," Staley said.

Jamaree Salyer added: "They have a really good rush package ... I felt like we had a good plan for it, just execution-wise, got to be better upfront as individuals and as a team we've got to execute better."

Staley pinpointed to an area the Bolts lacked in — the run game — that allowed Dallas to have success in the passing game.

"I think that our inability to run the football allowed their rush to really express itself. They were able to play their type of game most of the game," Staley said. "They have a lot of good rushers, so there's going to be pressure. We have to do a better job of running the football."

The Chargers ran the ball 23 times for just 53 yards Monday, good for just 2.3 yards per carry.

Ekeler had 27 yards on 14 attempts while Joshua Kelley and Isaiah Spiller each had a 2-yard rush. Herbert added 20 yards on six rushes.

"We have to take a hard look at what we're doing. It takes all 11 people. It's not just on one unit — it's not just the O-line — it's the tight ends, the backs, the wideouts and the quarterback," Staley said. "We have to be more effective in that phase, if you're going to play high-level offense against a pass rush like that."

Salyer added: "I think it's just game planning, getting better with that, get on the same page, hitting the combinations better. Being on the same page as far as what we're trying to get accomplished and how we can do it better whether it's technique, whatever it is. I think we can get better, a lot more clean with that."

4. Big play on special teams

The Chargers final points of the night were set up by special teams as the Bolts punted it away with just under nine minutes to go in the fourth quarter.

JK Scott's punt angled to the left where gunner Ja'Sir Taylor powered Jalen Tolbert into returner KaVontae Turpin, which is legal by NFL rules. The punt hit the turf and bounced to the middle of the field.

Tolbert, who thought the ball had been touched, sprinted over and dove for it, but long snapper Josh Harris helped keep the ball free. It was eventually recovered by linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga at the Dallas 20-yard line.

"Just trying to run to the ball, that's what we're coached to do," Harris said.

He later added: "We know that's a third of the game and any chance we get to go out there we have an opportunity to affect the game. We have a lot of pride in the practice we put in day-in and day-out to be able to capitalize on game day."

The officials initially ruled that possession belonged to Dallas, but Staley challenged the play and the call was over turned.

The Bolts took advantage of the start in the red zone and eventually tied the game at 17 when Herbert hit Gerald Everett for a 1-yard touchdown pass on fourth down.

5. Moving on to Week 7

The Bolts don't have time to dwell on this one.

Not with a road game against the division-leading Chiefs just six days away.

Khalil Mack summed up the vibe in the postgame locker room.

"It's frustrating. Coming off the bye week, understanding what we had in front of us, the opportunity we had on Monday Night Football," Mack said. "We let ourselves down, we let the fans down and ownership and everybody in the building.

"It's going to be a quick turnaround for Kansas City, six days to prepare, so we got to flush this one after tonight and just get ready for the next one," Mack added. "Game 5, got to flush it and get ready for the next one."

Kendricks added: "Division game, big week. Quick turnaround, six days. Excited for the opportunity. This is the NFL, it's not easy. I've been in this situation before. There's only one thing to do, get to work, get to practice, communicate with our guys, fix some issues we have and just tighten up and get that confidence."

The Chiefs lead the division with a 5-1 record, follow by the Raiders (3-3), Chargers (2-3) and Broncos (1-5).

The teams have split the last six meetings at Arrowhead Stadium.

"24-hour rule," Samuel said. "We'll watch the film and get back into the lab … Wednesday we're back at it. Chiefs are a great team with great coaches. We'll go out there and play."

Staley added: "We have to put this one behind us, because it was a tough game, and we have to get moving to Kansas City."

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