Cowboys vs. Chargers: Takeaways from San Diego's 30-21 Win over Dallas

Marcelo Villa@@_marcelovillaCorrespondent IISeptember 29, 2013

Cowboys vs. Chargers: Takeaways from San Diego's 30-21 Win over Dallas

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    Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY

    Following a loss to the Tennessee Titans that was decided on a last-second touchdown, the San Diego Chargers scored 17 unanswered points in the second half against the Dallas Cowboys to secure their second win of the season and improve to 2-2 on the year.

    The Chargers were initially down 21-13 at halftime, but the defense responded in the second half to hold Tony Romo and the Dallas offense scoreless through the last two quarters of the game. For once, the Chargers came out in the second half as the better team instead of the other way around.

    Here are today's takeaways from San Diego's 30-21 win over Dallas.

Dwight Freeney Leaves Game with Quad Injury

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    Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

    Defensive end Dwight Freeney went down with an apparent quad injury in the second quarter and was unable to return to the game against Dallas.

    Freeney laid on the field in obvious pain but was able to walk off the field with the help of trainers. The veteran pass-rusher has just one tackle and 0.5 sacks on the year, but he is an important part of the Chargers defense in pressuring the quarterback.

    The extent of Freeney's injury is yet to come, but losing him would be a huge blow to a San Diego squad that has been hit hard with injuries early on in the season.


Manti Te'o with Quiet Debut

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    Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

    San Diego's second-round pick out of Notre Dame made his much-anticipated debut against the Cowboys, but it was an average day for a player that was once considered a Heisman candidate in his college days.

    Manti Te'o had not played since Week 1 of the preseason against the Seattle Seahawks and finished with three tackles in his regular-season debut. Te'o made some routine tackles and collapsed on run plays like he was supposed to, but his debut didn't make headline news.

    As he continues to gain more playing time, we'll be able to see if he progresses further and makes some of the same plays he made for the Fighting Irish in his senior year.

Chargers Defense Holds DeMarco Murray

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    Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

    After decimating the St. Louis Rams for 175 yards and a score in last week's win, DeMarco Murray was held to just 70 yards with no touchdowns against a Chargers defense that ranked 28th in the league in rushing yards allowed (130).

    Granted the Chargers did return a healthy Donald Butler and Manti Te'o, it was still a good performance by San Diego's front seven after giving up 90 yards to Chris Johnson and 68 to Jake Locker the week prior.

Offensive Line with a Decent Game Down Three Starters

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    Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY

    Going into the game with Dallas, the Chargers were prepared to play without three starters on their offensive line. King Dunlap (concussion), Chad Rinehart (foot) and Jeromey Clary (shoulder) were held out with injuries stemming from last week's loss, and there was concern that their replacements wouldn't be able to provide Philip Rivers with the time he needed.

    On top of that, San Diego lost Rich Ohrnberger to a groin injury during the game, and the O-line still managed to give up just two sacks to a Cowboys defense that had 13 on the season. 

    Mike Harris, Stephen Schilling and Johnnie Troutman deserve a pat on the back for the job they did.

Woodhead Goes off for Two Scores

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    Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

    Through the first three games of the season Danny Woodhead had yet to score his first touchdown as a Charger, but he made up for that with two scores in the win over Dallas.

    Philip Rivers found his running back five times for 54 yards in the passing game, and Woodhead added 32 rushing yards. Since Woodhead arrived in San Diego from New England, the plan was to utilize his exceptional receiving skills, and that worked exactly to plan against the Cowboys.

    Woodhead's 13-yard TD reception in the third quarter pulled the Chargers within one point in the third quarter and was just the start of San Diego's 17-point comeback after halftime.

Nick Novak Automatic

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    Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

    Nick Novak has made 8-of-9 field-goal attempts on the year with his one miss coming from a block against the Tennessee Titans. 

    The San Diego kicker scored 12 points in the win over Dallas and continues to have an impact on games for the Chargers. In both of San Diego's wins this season, Novak has scored more than 10 points whereas the team has lost games when he has less than five.

    Kicking may not seem like a big part of the game, but every point counts, especially for a Chargers team that is notorious for close finishes.

Keenan Allen with Career Day

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    Keenan Allen has yet to find the end zone in his rookie year for the Chargers, but the third-round pick out of Cal had his best game of the season against the Cowboys with Malcom Floyd still dealing with a neck injury.

    Allen caught five passes for 80 yards and averaged 16 yards a catch for the Chargers offense. The rookie wideout had some nice sideline grabs and was a clutch target in a passing game that picked up 20 first downs.

    Allen had just three catches leading up to the game, but it was good to see him step up as the Chargers continue to wait for Floyd's return.

Pass Rush Rattles Tony Romo

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    Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY

    The Chargers defense got to Tony Romo three times and pressured him throughout the game enough to slow down the Cowboys offense when the game was on the line.

    Corey Liuget, Kendall Reyes and veteran linebacker Jarret Johnson picked up the sacks on defense and combined for 11 tackles between them. When Dwight Freeney left the game with an injury, Romo started clicking on offense with Dez Bryant, but John Pagano's defense was resilient in getting pressure in the second half, and it worked as Dallas was unable to score.

Antonio Gates with the Go-Ahead Score

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    Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY

    Up by just three in the fourth quarter, Philip Rivers connected with Antonio Gates for a 56-yard touchdown, giving Rivers his 200th career touchdown pass. Coincidentally, Rivers and Gates hooked up for the quarterback's 100th TD pass as well earlier in his career.

    Gates also got his name in the record books when he passed Ozzie Newsome for fourth-most catches by a tight end in NFL history.

    The veteran tight end ended his day with 10 receptions for 136 yards and the go-ahead score that pretty much sealed the deal for the Chargers in the fourth quarter. Gates went over 100 yards receiving for the second time this season and now has two straight games with a TD reception.

How Good Is Philip Rivers Right Now?

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    Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

    Yes, Philip Rivers did throw an interception returned for a touchdown to Sean Lee, but he finished with over 400 yards passing and three touchdowns against the Cowboys. 

    Rivers went into the game as the league's second-ranked quarterback in touchdown passes (8) and completion percentage (70 percent), and he continues to answer the critics with consistent outings.

    Rivers now has 11 touchdowns to just two interceptions on the season and has thrown for more 400 yards twice already. Whatever Mike McCoy and Ken Whisenhunt have been doing with Rivers appears to be working because he is looking like a legitimate Pro Bowl quarterback.

Secondary Flops in First Half, Rebounds in Second with Turnover

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    Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

    San Diego's secondary must have made fans want to pull their hair out in the first half against Dallas as Dez Bryant and Tony Romo hooked up for two scores. Thankfully, the secondary came up with a big turnover late in the game that stomped any chance of a Cowboys' comeback.

    Terrance Williams reached out with the ball for the goal line down in San Diego territory as the Cowboys were driving, but Crezdon Butler jarred the ball loose with a big hit, and Richard Marshall recovered the fumble in the end zone for a touchback.

    Butler, who was beat by Justin Hunter for the game-winning touchdown last week, must feel pretty good knowing he redeemed himself with that play. Eric Weddle had another great game in the secondary and broke up a pass near the goal line and on third down.

    Tony Romo racked up 244 yards passing against the Chargers defense, but the unit answered in the second half with a shutout despite starting cornerback Shareece Wright missing his second straight game.