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2023 NFL season, Week 6: What We Learned from Cowboys' win over Chargers on Monday night


  1. Dak Prescott's penchant for hero plays pays off. Prescott wasn't perfect, but he was the better quarterback on Monday night, even if Michael Gallup didn't seem to be overly interested in helping him out. Luckily for Prescott, he had CeeDee Lamb to rely on early, and Tony Pollard to turn to after evading a sack and dumping off an under-pressure toss to his running back, who took it 60 yards to set up the Cowboys for a crucial touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks. Prescott followed that up by finding Lamb and Cooks on their next possession, producing the deciding field goal. After tripping and falling flat on their face against the 49ers, the Cowboys needed a win. They got it by proving to be a resilient bunch, starting with their quarterback.
  2. Justin Herbert flops in prime time. This was Herbert's worst performance in a long time, if not of his career. Dallas did a good job of applying pressure on Herbert throughout the night, but when he did have time to fire, he routinely missed open targets. Herbert overshot Keenan Allen twice on attempts that would have gone for huge gains, missed an open receiver in the end zone, waited a beat too long to throw to Austin Ekeler in the flat on the goal line, had a fourth-and-1 attempt in the red zone batted away by DaRon Bland, and was intercepted by Stephon Gilmore to end the Chargers' hopes of a comeback. It wasn't entirely on Herbert, but this is a team that relies significantly on its quarterback -- especially when the running game forgets to show up -- and he simply failed to do his job well enough to win, leading many to wonder whether his injured finger on his left hand is more of a problem than previously thought.
  3. The Chargers really miss Mike Williams. Look no further than Los Angeles' red zone opportunities, in which the Bolts seemed to be searching desperately for a path to the end zone. The lack of a big target means any physical mismatch will come from tight ends, allowing the Cowboys to direct their attention to Gerald Everett and Donald Parham, blanket Keenan Allen and dare anyone else to beat them. It's not just in the red zone, either: This passing game relies too heavily on Allen to move the ball through the air, making the task simpler for opposing defenses and undercutting the Chargers' potential. Everything seemed to be difficult for L.A. on Monday night, even when it significantly outgained the Cowboys in the third quarter and had only a field goal to show for it. The bad news: Williams won't be back until 2024. Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore is going to need to find another route to success.
  4. Dan Quinn wins the battle of coordinators. This game was billed as a revenge opportunity for Moore, who left the Cowboys in a mutual parting of ways in 2023 and joined the Chargers almost immediately. He was supposed to outduel the man who replaced him, Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy. Instead, it was Dallas' defensive coordinator, Quinn, who had his number for most of the night. It was painfully evident in the most important situations, like when Moore dialed up a rollout to the short side of the field on fourth-and-1 in the red zone, leaving Justin Herbert with two options (who were blanketed by man coverage) to the play side and only a prayer in the form of Allen, who was crossing toward the back side of the play and was double covered. Herbert wasn't going to have time to attempt such a throw anyway, judging by how the rest of the game had gone to that point. Quinn won the battle of wits with Moore, even while Micah Parsons didn't do much of anything. And when the moment called for it, Quinn sent Parsons on a blitz that produced a quick sack. One play later, Herbert threw an under-pressure interception, securing the win for Quinn and the Cowboys.
  5. Cowboys need to clean it up. The Chargers made a lot of mental errors in this game, the type that typically come from a poorly coached team, but when the clock hit triple-zeroes, the Cowboys were the ones who ended up with more penalties accepted against them (11 for 85 yards). They also botched a punt return that gave the Chargers a massive gift, resulting in a game-tying touchdown. It hasn't been a clean operation for the Cowboys in the last two weeks, not by any stretch of the imagination, and they paid the price a week ago. This time, they survived, but they'll need to be better, because stiffer competition will await them soon enough.

NFL Research: Dak Prescott scored his first rushing touchdown since Week 8 of 2022 on Monday night, improving the Cowboys' record to 21-4 when he scores a rushing touchdown.

Next Gen stat of the game: Prescott reached his two fastest speeds (18.65 mph) of the season on back-to-back runs in the first quarter, including his 18-yard touchdown run (18.06 mph).

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