The Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Chargers have different reasons to be happy they get extra time to prepare for each other.
Monday night’s game gives the Cowboys (3-2) an extra day to deal with the shock of their 42-10 blowout loss to the San Francisco 49ers last Sunday.
The Chargers (2-2) are coming off their bye week and will have some key starters back. Quarterback Justin Herbert is dealing with a fractured middle finger on his left non-throwing hand that is not expected to keep him from playing.
While Dallas’ 28-16 loss at Arizona on Sept. 24 was surprising, the defeat at San Francisco hit the Cowboys differently.
“When we lost to Arizona, I wish we could have played Thursday. Wish we could have played Monday, the next day,” defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said. “In this case, I think it’s probably better to have one more (day). I think each time is a little different. I’ll be honest. I’m glad it isn’t a bye. And we get ready to go.”
One positive for the Cowboys: They are 9-1 in games following a loss since the start of 2021.
Los Angeles is expected to have running back Austin Ekeler and safety Derwin James back for its first prime-time game of the season. Ekeler rushed for 117 yards in the opener against Miami but was sidelined the past three games with an ankle injury.
James suffered a hamstring injury at Minnesota on Sept. 24 and was inactive the following week against Las Vegas.
“The bye week was definitely beneficial for me. I feel like I healed up pretty good over the bye for sure,” James said. “And it helped get some guys back out here on the team that we’re gonna need for the rest of the season. So it’s gonna be fun.”
Even though the Chargers are healthier, James expects them to face an angry Cowboys squad.
“As a human being, anybody that gets embarrassed, you’re gonna always respond and there’s always gonna be that urgency to respond. We know that,” he said.
Chargers offensive coordinator Kellen Moore faces his former team for the first time. Moore spent eight seasons with Dallas as a player and coach from 2015-22, the last four years as offensive coordinator.
The Bolts are fifth in the league in total offense (388.8 yards per game) and sixth in passing (269.0).
Moore has been credited with the development of Dak Prescott, who has struggled at times this season in an offense led by head coach Mike McCarthy.
Prescott has three sub-80 passer ratings thus far. He’s had more than four in a season just once in his eight-year career.
Asante Samuel, Michael Davis and Ja’Sir Taylor are entrenched as the Chargers’ starting cornerbacks after J.C. Jackson was traded to New England last week.
The trade won’t be a quick fix to a struggling pass defense. Los Angeles is allowing a league-high 299.8 yards per game via the air. It has given up 19 completions of 20 yards or more, fifth-most in the league.
Dallas receiver CeeDee Lamb was visibly frustrated on the sideline as the blowout got worse and the offense continued going nowhere against the 49ers.
The Cowboys had eight first downs, their fewest in 21 years, and Lamb was targeted five times, just about the average for the four games other than the 30-10 victory over the New York Jets, when he was targeted 13 times.
“I had a great visit with CeeDee,” McCarthy said. “He’s an impact player, he should feel that way. I’m fully aware of it, and it was frustrating. It was frustrating not doing your part on offense. I felt that. I felt frustration as a play-caller.”
Herbert has won his last three starts on Monday nights, including both last year.
He is 6-6 in prime-time games. His 24 touchdown passes in those starts ranks fourth since he entered the league in 2020.
“I think it’s just another great opportunity to play football. We’re the only game of the night. There’s a lot of excitement for it,” Herbert said.
The Cowboys played their projected starting offensive line from training camp for the first time in the 49ers game. While center Tyler Biadasz had to leave with an apparent leg injury, he did return and McCarthy is optimistic he will be out there for a second consecutive game with tackles Tyron Smith and Terence Steele and guards Zack Martin and Tyler Smith.
“I do like the look of the group,” McCarthy said. “I think there are things we did well. I think there are things moving forward that I can highlight more for them. Tyler Smith and Tyron Smith, how many combination blocks have they worked on yet? Not a whole lot. So, we’ve got work there but it’s great to have all five of those guys out there.”
AP Pro Football Writer Schuyler Dixon contributed to this report.
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