We have not seen a Rod Marinelli defense in Dallas look so defeated. It is bad enough to get 0 sacks and 0 takeaways for the second time in five days with the season apparently on the line. The pass rush that was discovered earlier this season has vanished once again into thin air.
But, what makes it all the worse was that it was combined with allowing Philip Rivers and his band of receivers to go for 434 yards receiving and 515 yards of total offense for an absurd 7.8 yards per play. This is the 15th time in Cowboys history they have allowed 7.8 yards per play and the first time since 2013 when they allowed it 3 different times! (thx, Profootballreference.com)
As you can see, it is the most efficient of any of those with Rivers pocketing a 149.1 passer rating. So, you could argue that despite the Chargers only getting to 28 points, this was the most efficient destruction of a Cowboys defense we have ever seen.
What makes it a little crazier is that the Chargers had 5 players with over 50 yards receiving. Keenan Allen was great, but he was joined by all his friends. The Cowboys were served up on a platter and devoured by a veteran QB who made them look really silly in front of a national audience.
The big number was the amount of explosive plays allowed. Eight! Eight different plays of over 20 yards were conceded, which was the most the Cowboys have given up in a single game since the Matthew Stafford/Megatron game in 2013 that let us know the Monte Kiffin era wasn't going to last very long. And that performance was sandwiched between Denver scoring 51 and a Saints game.
But, let's focus on 2017 - where the Cowboys had done a pretty nice job for the first half of the season against the big play. But, that wall has come crashing down as Rivers has once again left a game against the Cowboys wondering if he can play them more often. He is now 3-0 in his career against Dallas and has passed for 1,107 yards and 7 touchdowns in those 3 games for a passer rating of 123.9. That should work.
WEEKLY DATA BOX
Where do you start? 500 yards? Eight explosives? Zero sacks? Zero takeaways? Nine 3rd-down conversions? The real mystery here is how did the Chargers only score 28 points? A few things go slightly differently and they might have had 45.
Just an utter disaster from the defense. Their version of Zeke - Sean Lee - is the fallback, cover-all excuse for this mess, but there shouldn't be excuses. This was a total destruction and having a LB might have made a difference, but as you can see, Rivers attacked everyone without mercy.
The Cowboys gave up eight different 20+-yard plays - we will look at each of them below - and all of them were through the air. And, many of them were against the Cowboys' wrinkle for this game. They decided this was a good time to start blitzing over and over to try to get pressure.
COWBOYS BLITZ RATES BY WEEK
As you can see, they picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue. A team that refuses to blitz all season anywhere close to league numbers throws everything it can at Phil Rivers - perhaps the most experienced QB on the entire schedule - and he chops it up without getting touched all day long. Remarkable, and from a Cowboys standpoint, confusing.
PHILIP RIVERS THROW CHART
That, above, is called anywhere you want to go with the ball there are yards waiting for you. Rivers beat all the coverages and all the looks and all the defenders multiple times in the game. It was quite the masterpiece, to be honest.
WEEK 11 - SPLASH PLAYS
If there was any good news, it might be that Jaylon Smith played his best game as a Cowboy. Other than that, it was pretty slim pickings to find a standout defender for the team. They were all quite poor, and it will be difficult to put positive grades on any of them.
First drive and the Chargers show they mean business. Cowboys have two safeties deep and Travis Benjamin splits them down the field as Xavier Woods finds out they can throw the ball over your head in the NFL. It is always interesting to see safeties from college learn that lesson on the fly because they did not think that throw was possible in college. He will learn.
On this play, Cowboys fans wanted a hold on David Irving. You aren't going to get that call. Rivers steps to his right and makes an easy throw into the open field for the biggest play of the day. Obviously, your safeties have to be deeper than the deepest threat.
This one is the Cowboys' zone defense (Cover 3?) against a concept where the corner takes the deeper threat with Jeff Heath taking the flat and Jourdan Lewis hesitates here for a moment. That allows his man, Allen, to deal with a throw where Lewis has his back to Rivers. Not difficult to complete passes like that as Allen adjusts on the ball and grabs an easy 32 yards before the single-high safety Byron Jones can arrive.
You can see Rivers doing the computation in his head and then he has time to pick his matchup - looking for rookie DBs, they are everywhere - and makes his throw.
Next, the Cowboys are caught on a blitz. Where does a veteran go with a throw against a blitz? You probably start with seeing if the LBs can run with the TE dragging across the middle. Hunter Henry grabs it and is able to run for 27 (plus 15 more after Jones hits him late).
You can see Justin Durant is scrambling here - so is Hitchens to get to the RB. Teams that don't blitz much aren't good at dealing with "blitz beaters" from QBs that know what they are doing. Which is why blitzing Rivers more than any QB you blitzed all season seems very odd to me.
Let's keep blitzing! Third and 11, send six! Let's see what happens.
It is tough to see who is the bust here. Is it 30-Brown who is 15 yards from Henry when he catches this or is it 57-Wilson who is 8 yards away? Either way, this is where Rivers is now laughing at you for being so silly with your plan.
Third Quarter. Cowboys clearly in Cover 1 on third down (because they always are) and Rivers sends Ekeler the RB out wide to isolate Justin Durant against him in the open field. This is death. You might want to call a timeout here and get out of this because Durant has no chance. Or you can save all your timeouts for when the game is 28-6 and Garrett wants to demonstrate how we play for 60 minutes. Your call.
That didn't work very well. Anyone in the stadium could tell you what was about to happen. No pass rush, Rivers is smiling. This is taking candy from a baby.
Third and 11. Here is another chance to blitz the farm and see what happens. A very easy scene where you send the TE up to get in the safety's way and drag his man across the middle. Williams runs for 31 yards before Woods can track him down. Third down? Single-high, man-under. We know this, so of course, Rivers knows this.
You know who can make this throw? Every QB in the NFL. Every QB.
Here is the seventh explosive. Now, Rivers is just showing off. This is not a throw any QB can make. But, some can, and he is on that list.
Anthony Brown has been torched quite a bit recently, but I am not sure there is anyone on the roster that is stopping this throw and catch from Williams. Woods is the high man and can't get there because the throw is to the pylon. Wow.
And the last one that emptied the stadium against 2-Man. Empty backfield and a simple throw to Allen turns into the keystone cops as Heath and Scandrick run into each other and it is over.
Probably a missed hold here on the inside on 96. Some want a hold on 90, but that looks like a LT using his leverage against him.
Either way, that is eight explosive plays and as bad as the Cowboys defense has looked in years. Where do they go from here?