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    Chargers’ comeback attempt picked off as Cowboys hold on to win
    • October 17, 2023

    INGLEWOOD — The Chargers had one final chance to pull out a third consecutive victory, a third consecutive narrow victory, but a two-minute drill went haywire and the Dallas Cowboys held on for a 20-17 victory on Monday night at SoFi Stadium.

    Stephon Gilmore intercepted Justin Herbert’s desperation pass with a little more than a minute to play.

    The Cowboys then ran out the clock on the Chargers’ comeback hopes.

    Dallas broke a 10-10 tie with Dak Prescott’s 2-yard touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks with 11:19 left in the fourth quarter. Herbert connected with Gerald Everett for a 1-yard touchdown pass with 7:11 remaining, tying the score again, after taking advantage of a successful coach’s challenge.

    Upon review, the Chargers recovered a fumbled punt at the Cowboys’ 20-yard line and Herbert drove them for the tying score. The drive was aided by a defensive holding penalty that moved the ball to the Dallas 5. Herbert then converted a fourth-and-goal from the 1, hitting Everett.

    Dallas went in front 20-17 on Brandon Aubrey’s 39-yard field goal with 2:19 left.

    Herbert played with a white glove to protect the fractured left middle finger on his non-throwing hand and completed 22 of 37 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns. He misfired on a couple of throws, but any difficulty he might have had was due to the Cowboys’ pressure rather than an injured finger.

    Running back Austin Ekeler played his first game since spraining his ankle in the Chargers’ season-opening loss to the Miami Dolphins. Edge rusher Joey Bosa joined his teammates after skipping most of the past week’s practices because of a toe injury. Safety Alohi Gilman couldn’t play because of a heel injury.

    Mayhem erupted well before the opening kickoff, with some members of the teams yelling and pushing and shoving each other as they went through their respective pregame warmup period. A group of Cowboys players ran through the Chargers’ defensive backs as they were doing a drill.

    Cowboys backup defensive linemen Sam Williams and Mazi Smith were soon surrounded by a group of Chargers that included safeties Derwin James Jr. and Dean Marlowe and cornerback Ja’Sir Taylor and were soon joined by running backs Isaiah Spiller and Joshua Kelley, among others.

    Cooler heads prevailed and the fracas didn’t escalate as assistant coaches and game officials separated the players from each other quickly. The remainder of the warmup was uneventful and everyone returned without incident to their proper locker room to begin final preparations for the game.

    When the action began for real, it looked as if it might be a high-scoring game with the teams trading touchdowns in the opening minutes. Herbert threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Keenan Allen to put the Chargers in front. The Cowboys countered with Prescott’s 18-yard touchdown run.

    It then turned into a test of wills, with an occasional flurry of effective offense followed by an ill-advised penalty or two and some sound defense. The Chargers had trouble protecting Herbert from the Cowboys and the Cowboys struggled to keep the Chargers’ pass-rushers away from Prescott.

    Neither team could break the 7-7 tie until Aubrey kicked a 32-yard field goal on the final play of the first half. The Cowboys’ drive was aided by an unnecessary roughing penalty on James after a 15-yard completion from Prescott to tight end Jake Ferguson, giving Dallas a first down at the 17.

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    The Chargers were penalized four times for 45 yards in the first half; the Cowboys were penalized six times for 45 yards, including once for an illegal formation on a punt. The Chargers accepted the penalty and forced Bryan Anger to punt from his own end zone. He boomed the next one 53 yards.

    It was a little chippy, but also very sloppy.

    Herbert could have given the Chargers a 14-7 lead, but he missed an open Allen sprinting down the sideline for what looked like a certain touchdown. Herbert’s pass sailed out of bounds, the Chargers’ drive stalled and then Prescott led the Cowboys on a drive that resulted in Aubrey’s last-season field goal.

    The Chargers would tie it 10-10 on Cameron Dicker’s third-quarter field goal.

    ​ Orange County Register