May 29, 2024

The Chargers’ first appearance in prime time this season ended in a spotlight of disappointment.

Under pressure, Justin Herbert was intercepted by Dallas’ Stephon Gilmore in the final 90 seconds to end the Chargers’ last possession and cap a 20-17 Cowboys’ victory at SoFi Stadium.

The Chargers had third-and-10 at their 25-yard line when Herbert was picked off. In the play before the interception, Herbert was sacked by Micah Parsons for an eight-yard loss.

The defeat ended the Chargers’ two-game winning streak and dropped them to 2-3. Dallas improved to 4-2.

The Cowboys took a 20-17 lead on a 39-yard field goal by Brandon Aubrey with 2:19 remaining in the fourth quarter. The boot finished a 14-play, 54-yard drive.

Dallas converted three third downs during the possession — one on an illegal contact penalty on cornerback Ja’Sir Taylor, one on a Dak Prescott completion to CeeDee Lamb and one on a pass to Brandin Cooks.

The Chargers had tied the score 17-17 on a one-yard touchdown pass from Justin Herbert to Gerald Everett with 7:11 to go in the fourth quarter.

The completion came on fourth-and-goal and capped a 20-yard possession set up by a muffed punt by the Cowboys. Amen Ogbongbemiga recovered the muff to give the Chargers their excellent starting position.

The Cowboys had taken a 17-10 lead four minutes earlier when Dak Prescott passed two yards to Brandin Cooks with safety Dean Marlowe in coverage.

Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) eludes the tackle of Chargers defensive lineman Scott Matlock (99).

The Cowboys’ Dak Prescott (4) eludes the tackle of Chargers defensive lineman Scott Matlock (99). Prescott escaped the Chargers rush several times.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Dallas’ go-head score was set up on a 60-yard Prescott completion to Tony Pollard on a third-and-10 play to open the fourth quarter. Prescott escaped significant pressure and kept the play alive to find Pollard.

Cornerback Michael Davis had a chance to tackle Pollard at the Dallas 40-yard line, which still would have been a first down. Instead Pollard shook off Davis and advanced to the Chargers 16-yard line.

The Chargers went 68 yards in 13 plays on the opening possession of the second half but failed to score when their fourth-and-one attempt resulted in an incomplete pass.

With the ball at the Dallas seven-yard line, Herbert tried to hit Joshua Palmer in the end zone without success. It appeared that the play was designed to go to running back Austin Ekeler in the flat, but he was well covered.

Following a three-and-out forced by the Chargers defense, the offense returned with the ball at the Dallas 49-yard line. Again, Herbert moved the unit inside the Cowboys 10-yard line, where the drive stalled.

Cameron Dicker’s 24-yard field goal pulled the Chargers even, 10-10, which is where the score remained into the fourth quarter.

The game started in a very promising way for the Chargers as their defense forced a three-and-out and rookie Derius Davis produced a 26-yard punt return, putting Herbert and the offense at the Dallas 42-yard line.

Five plays later, Herbert connected with Keenan Allen for a one-yard touchdown. Herbert, four snaps earlier, hit Joshua Palmer for what appeared to be a 27-yard score, but the touchdown was wiped out by an ineligible man downfield penalty on left guard Zion Johnson.

Chargers Justin Herbert eludes the Cowboys Stephon Gilmore on a scramble in the red zone.

Chargers Justin Herbert eludes the Cowboys Stephon Gilmore on a scramble in the red zone.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The Cowboys immediately answered that score with a touchdown on their next possession. Dak Prescott scored on an 18-yard keeper on fourth-and-one.

Dallas took a 10-7 lead into halftime when Brandon Aubrey hit a 32-yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter. The kicked finished a six-play, 57-yard drive.

The series was aided by another unnecessary roughness penalty on Chargers safety Derwin James Jr., who was flagged after a hit on tight end Jake Ferguson. It was James’ third such penalty this season.

Earlier in the second quarter, James was called for roughing the passer following a hit on Prescott.

Chargers linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr. tackles  Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott in first quarter.

Chargers linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr. tackles Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott in first quarter.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

There was a brief flurry of action even before the game kicked off. About 45 minutes prior to start time, the Chargers’ secondary was involved in some pushing and shoving with a group of Cowboys players.

The incident began as Dallas was taking the field for warmups and a series of players ran through the Chargers’ defensive backs as they were going through their usual pregame drills.

The situation passed fairly quickly as both teams started to descend near midfield along the Cowboys’ sideline. At one point, Chargers running back Austin Ekeler, who appeared to be trying to keep peace, had his helmet punched off by Dallas defensive end Dante Fowler.

The Chargers play next at Kansas City at 1:25 p.m. PDT Sunday. Sitting at 5-1, the Chiefs leads the AFC West and are tied with Miami for the best record in the conference.

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