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    Swanson: It’s Monday Night Frustration for Chargers’ offense
    • October 17, 2023

    INGLEWOOD — Revenge is a dish served cold. But the Chargers misunderstood the assignment.

    Because they froze up on the big stage. Monday night’s showcase game became an exercise in futility for the Chargers’ new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore against the Dallas Cowboys, the team whom he’d coached the previous eight seasons before they parted ways in January.

    It was a Monday Night Flunk.

    The Chargers lost, 20-17, at SoFi Stadium, replicating the score of a loss to Moore and his old crew two seasons ago in L.A.

    That time, Dak Prescott drove Dallas down the field for a game-winning field goal. This time, Justin Herbert, under pressure all night, finally succumbed on the Chargers’ last drive.

    He was sacked for the first time on second down and then intercepted a play later, a whimper in tune with the Chargers’ offensive output for most of the contest.

    After scoring a touchdown on their opening drive, the Chargers (2-3) passed on a field-goal gimme opportunity, going for it on fourth-and-1 at the 7-yard line with 7:47 to play in the third quarter – and coming up empty when Herbert couldn’t connect with Joshua Palmer in the end zone.

    The Bolts scored only one more touchdown after that, a nifty play call freeing up tight end Gerald Everett for a 1-yard touchdown catch with 7:15 to play.

    Otherwise, it was Monday Night funk for a stagnant offense that had, at times, shown signs of forward progress in Moore’s first season in L.A.

    For one, Herbert had turned over the ball just once before Monday. And coming in, the Chargers’ red zone touchdown percentage was much improved: 68.8% (fifth in the NFL), while Dallas’ was 36.8% (28th).

    The Bolts also showed up for work Monday ranked fifth in the league in total offense (388.8 yards per game) and sixth in passing (269.0).

    But against the Cowboys (4-2), Moore wasn’t exactly living up to the allegations about him, not quite cutting that swashbuckling figure that Dallas coach Mike McCarthy claimed him to be after the split in January, when the coach said in an interview that his former offensive coordinator was focused on wanting to “light the scoreboard up.”

    “I want him to run the damn ball so I can rest my defense,” McCarthy went on. “I think when you’re a coordinator, you know but you’re in charge of the offense. Being a head coach and being a play caller, you’re a little more in tune with (everything). I don’t desire to be the No. 1 offense in the league. I want to be the No. 1 team in the league with the number of wins and a championship.”

    On Monday, the Chargers ran the damn ball almost as often as Dallas (23 carries vs. 26) – but to little avail, even with Austin Ekeler healthy and back on the field. The Bolts gained only 53 rushing yards.

    Meanwhile, Herbert never could get comfortable, completing 22 of 37 pass attempts for 227 yards, the two TDs and the deciding interception with 1:29 to play.

    And Moore – under whom the Chargers were averaging five more offensive points per game than last year, while the Cowboys had been scoring an average of 5.2 fewer – wasn’t able to derive a benefit from any insider knowledge of his former team.

    The Chargers scored their fewest points of the season, as Herbert failed to complete even 60% of his passes for the second consecutive game.

    “I missed a couple receivers, I threw some bad passes,” said Herbert, the fourth-year signal caller who signed a five-year, $262.5 million contract extension before the season.

    Herbert blamed himself and embattled head coach Brandon Staley credited Dallas: “It was a high-level game between two teams that are really, really good.”

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    And really, really good at drawing penalties: The Chargers had nine of them for 79 yards and Dallas was called for 11 for 85 – a trend that didn’t help either offense find a rhythm.

    Including Moore’s.

    He’d said more than once that he wasn’t out for vengeance Monday, telling reporters this week: “I think a lot of that stuff is pretty overrated. At the end of the day, It’s getting on the field and playing 11-on-11.”

    But c’mon. He’d have liked it if the Chargers lit up the scoreboard with a big scoring statement.

    Instead, it was Monday Night Frustration, and the neon, flashing message, as delivered by Herbert postgame: “There’s a lot to work on, a lot to improve on.”

    ​ Orange County Register