INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP)Fans and some players might roll their eyes when a Week 6 game is described as a must win.
That doesn’t matter to Dak Prescott
After playing one of the worst games of his eight-year career last week and with a bye week on the horizon, Prescott went into Monday night’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers knowing anything other than victory would be detrimental to the Cowboys’ hopes of contending for an NFC title.
Prescott responded by throwing for 272 yards and a touchdown as Dallas rallied in the fourth quarter for a 20-17 victory.
“It was a must win. There’s a big difference between 4-2 and 3-3,” said Prescott, who completed 21 of 30 passes and also had a rushing TD. “We talked after last week about not allowing this thing to landslide. When you get this win like we did, we can definitely move on.”
The Cowboys – coming off a 42-10 loss at San Francisco on Oct. 8 – continue to prove they don’t let losses fester. They improved to 10-1 in weeks following a loss since the start of the 2021 season.
“There’s plays that needed to be made, especially down the stretch,” Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said. “A lot of back and forth, a lot of resetting your jaw and just keep fighting, and I thought our men did a really good job there.”
Prescott became the 30th quarterback in NFL history to throw at least one touchdown pass against 31-or-more opponents when he connected with Brandin Cooks for a 2-yard score with 11:19 remaining in the game to give the Cowboys a 17-10 lead.
“Dak did a lot of great things,” said Cowboys receiver CeeDee Lamb, who had seven receptions for 117 yards. “He improvised a lot, gave us the ability to do our work down the field.”
Prescott showed off his running ability midway through the first quarter when he faked a handoff on fourth-and-1 and went up the middle for an 18-yard touchdown to tie the game at 7-7. It was the longest rushing touchdown of Prescott’s eight-year career.
“We had CeeDee in motion as an option. The defensive end took out Tony and two other guys ran toward CeeDee just allowing me to cut up field,” said Prescott, who also had 40 rushing yards on seven carries. “I have not been showing my legs early in the year so that might have played a part in it.”
Los Angeles tied it at 17 with 7:11 remaining when Gerald Everett caught a 1-yard touchdown pass from Justin Herbert.
Brandon Aubrey made two field goals, including a 39-yarder with 2:19 remaining, to give the Cowboys the lead.
The Chargers (2-3) had one last chance to send it into overtime or win, but Stephon Gilmore picked off Herbert at the LA 33-yard line with 1:22 remaining to seal the victory. On the play immediately before the pick, Herbert was sacked by Micah Parsons for an 8-yard loss.
“We fell short, and I’ve got to make more plays as a quarterback,” said Herbert, who was 22 of 37 for 227 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. “I missed a couple of receivers, threw some bad passes. There was a lot left out there, so there’s a lot to work on, and a lot to improve on.”
The Chargers started off well when they scored on their opening drive for the second straight game as Allen caught a 1-yard pass from Herbert on third-and-goal. Allen finished with seven catches for 85 yards.
Los Angeles had a chance to tie or take the lead on the opening drive of the third quarter, but Herbert was unable to complete it to Joshua Palmer in the end zone on fourth-and-1 at the Cowboys 7.
“I thought we were really good most of the night on third down. I thought we pressured the quarterback at a high level, but Dak made a couple of plays on that last drive, and it hurt us,” Chargers coach Brandon Staley said.
Cooks’ touchdown was set up by a 60-yard reception by Pollard on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Prescott scrambled out of pressure on third-and-11 at the Dallas 24 and completed a short pass to Pollard at the 32. Pollard then spun out of a tackle by Chargers cornerback Michael Davis at the 40 and appeared as if he would score a touchdown until he was brought down by Asante Samuel at the Chargers 16.
“The throw to Pollard is one of those fluke plays off the scramble where we have him, and you give credit to Dak for making a big play,” Staley said.
The Chargers tied it in the fourth quarter when they took over on the Cowboys 20 after a muffed punt.
Dallas’ Jalen Tolbert thought KaVontae Turpin got his hand on the ball, but Tolbert was the first to touch it. He fumbled and Chargers linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga recovered it.
It was originally called a downed punt, but it was reversed after the Chargers challenged the call.
Chargers: DL Sebastian Joseph-Day suffered a knee injury on the first play of the game, but came back in the second half. … CB Raheem Layne also sustained a knee injury in the third quarter and did not return.
Cowboys: Have their bye week before hosting the Rams on Oct. 29.
Chargers: Travel to Kansas City. The Chiefs swept last year’s series and have won the last three meetings.
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