Dallas Cowboys 0-7-0-0 — 7
San Diego Chargers 7-7-0-3 — 17
The San Diego Chargers‘ rushing attack looked in regular season form on Thursday night, showcasing a handful of weapons in their preseason victory over the Dallas Cowboys. Let’s say the Bolts felt pretty good about the win:
Danny Woodhead, making his first in-game appearance since last year’s injury, notched one touchdown while Branden Oliver added another and the Chargers racked up 135 yards on the ground. This year’s first-round draft pick, Melvin Gordon, also made his presence known with six carries for 11 yards.
The Cowboys did not start many of their usual stars, including Tony Romo and Dez Bryant, and while the top names were sidelined the Dallas reserves seized the opportunity to prove themselves. Third-string quarterback Dustin Vaughan had a solid night, going 12-for-18 for 106 yards and a quarterback rating of 82.2. On the defensive side of things, Dallas’ first-round draft pick Byron Jones saw a good chunk of time, playing at both corner and safety and leading the team with five solo tackles in the first half. Click here for a full box score.
Branden Oliver Broke Ankles With His Second Quarter Touchdown
Branden Oliver broke onto the NFL scene last year and if this kind of play is any indication, he has no plans to slow down this season. Check out the video here:
The former University at Buffalo standout broke some metaphorical ankles with a 10-yard sprint into the end zone, breaking through the Cowboys defensive line as if they weren’t even there.
It was. It was nasty. And it gave the Chargers the lead late in the second quarter. San Diego padded its cushion in the fourth quarter with a Nick Novak 52-yard field goal.
Gus Johnson Left the Game With a Shoulder Injury
The Cowboys rookie running back saw plenty of time on the field during the preseason matchup but while he was hoping those snaps might help him seal the deal on a job, instead, they sent him to the locker room. Johnson left the game with a shoulder injury in the second half and was questionable to return.
Johnson had told ESPN earlier this week that he was hoping his pro debut would help him land on the Cowboys roster for the regular season:
I’m just trying to make sure I’ve got all my plays down, make sure my mind’s on the game, be focused and do everything I can to help us to come out on top. I like to get the dirty yards, put my head down, not afraid of contact. I’ve always been a bigger kid so contact is something I kind of like.
Johnson racked up 13 carries for 35 yards and one touchdown.
The Chargers Led 14 – 7 at Halftime
San Diego looked good early as the Chargers played a handful of their starters in the preseason opener. Philip Rivers went 2-for-2 for 20 yards in one series while first-round draft pick Melvin Gordon recorded 11 carries for six yards before heading to the sideline.
It was Branden Oliver who led the charge for the bolts in the first 30 minutes, racking up 53 yards and one touchdown on 10 carries. There was a bit of a downside though as San Diego announced an injury to their offensive line in the second quarter:
On the Dallas side of things, Branden Weeden got the start under center and posted 42 yards on 4-of-5 passing. Dustin Vaughan took over midway through the first quarter and went 8-for-13 for 83 yards. The Cowboys first-round draft pick, Byron Jones, also looked good, rarely coming off the field in the first half:
The Cowboys Fumbled Twice in the First Half
The San Diego defense and special teams looked good as the Chargers forced, and more importantly, recovered a pair of Cowboys fumbles in the first half.
After Dallas lost the ball on a bad snap in the first quarter, Kyle Emanuel forced the ball loose from Lucky Woodhead. The second recovery didn’t lead to another touchdown but the pressure is a step in the right direction for the Chargers and a good sign for the reserves that were in the game. The Chargers almost came up with an interception on Dallas’ ensuing offensive possession as well.
Gus Johnson Tied the Game With a Cowboys TD in the Second Quarter
Hey there, Gus Johnson, nice to see you running.
The Cowboys running back, who has led the pack as DeMarco Murray’s replacement in the backfield, added another bullet point on his resume with a second quarter touchdown in the preseason matchup. Johnson, who looked good in the game from the opening snap, took the ball for the five-yard run into the end zone and tied the game with 10:05 left in the first half.
On his first 10 carries of the night, Johnson recorded 30 yards and one touchdown. Not a bad night.
Danny Woodhead Got the Chargers on the Board After a Cowboys Fumble
First play, first touchdown.
Danny Woodhead, back from injury, took the inside move and knifed his way eight yards into the end zone to get San Diego on the board first in the preseason matchup. The play was set up after the Chargers recovered a Dallas fumble when a bad snap sent the ball flying into the backfield.
Philip Rivers and the San Diego offense took over on their own 33 yard line early in the first quarter. They certainly made the most of their opportunity.
Who’s Not Playing
The Cowboys won’t play most of their usual starters in the preseason opener, according to ESPN’s Todd Archer that list includes: Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Joseph Randle, Morris Claiborne, Sean Lee, Tyron Smith, Jason Witten, and Nick Hayden.
It didn’t take long for the rest of the Cowboys usual starters to leave the game either. Most of them only spent one series, shortened after an early turnover, on the field.
Tonight is about the rookies. Tonight is not about Philip Rivers or Tony Romo or any other veteran and their assured spot in the starting lineup. Tonight’s preseason opener between the Dallas Cowboys and San Diego Chargers is a chance for rookies, and under-the-radar players, to make their mark, to earn their spot. Good thing both squads have such interesting rookies.
Kickoff for the preseason opener is slated for 10 p.m. ET.
So, who should we be watching out for? On the Dallas side of things, keep an eye on defensive back Byron Jones. The UConn grad was a, literal, record-breaker during the combine and his raw athleticism has drawn some serious headlines and attention during training camp. For the Chargers, first-round draft pick Melvin Gordon is due to draw some buzz in his first pro game. He’s been notching big-time runs during camp, so it’ll be interesting to see how the former Wisconsin running back fares against opponents in a different jersey.
Tonight’s game will be broadcast locally on CBS 11 in Dallas and on CBS 8 in San Diego. Click here for an entire channel listing.