CHARGERS TAKE CHARGE: Gates bust and Rivers flood dammed Dallas D | San Diego 30, Dallas 21

San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates scores past 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys middle linebacker Sean Lee

SAN DIEGO – Initial thoughts on the Dallas Cowboys’ 30-21 loss to the San Diego Chargers.

What it means for the Cowboys: Once again the Cowboys let slip away a golden chance to show they were more of a team to watch in the NFC than just a team that can compete in a bad NFC East.

Dallas had an 11-point lead with 1:19 left in the first half, but allowed 20 straight points to the Chargers, leaving with another loss to an AFC West foe. And it doesn’t get easier with another AFC West foe, the Denver Broncos, visiting AT&T Stadium next week.

Cowboys lost 17-16 in Week 2 at Kansas City in a game they could have won, but the offense was unable to sustain any momentum. Today, the defense could not come up with any crucial stops after Sean Lee’s interception return for a touchdown.

Stock watch: Falling — Morris Claiborne. He is playing with a dislocated shoulder, but this was nothing to do with his ability to tackle. He was poor in coverage against Vincent Brown and rookie Keenan Allen. Philip Rivers continually went at Claiborne (as well as Bruce Carter, who could not stick with running back Danny Woodhead).

Can’t get off the field: After Lee’s second career pick-six, and the third defensive touchdown of the season, the Cowboys’ defense had no answers for Rivers, who was playing behind a line filled with backups.

After the Cowboys took that 21-10 lead, the San Diego offense ripped off 20 straight points with 310 yards on 37 plays. The Chargers only got to third down five times on those 37 plays, and converted three times against the Cowboys zone.

Rivers was hardly pressured, and he was able to toy with the secondary with receivers Allen, Brown, Royal, Woodhead (two touchdowns) and Antonio Gates (56-yard touchdown).

Can’t stay on the field: Offensively the Dallas Cowboys ran just seven plays in the third quarter.

Their second possession of the second half lasted only seven plays because a Ronald Leary holding penalty negated a first-down catch by Cole Beasley at the San Diego 32. Two plays later Jason Witten couldn’t hold on to a seam throw from Tony Romo and the Cowboys were forced to punt. The Chargers answered with Gates’ back-breaking touchdown.

The Cowboys’ third possession of the second half ended at the Chargers’ goal line when rookie receiver Terrance Williams fumbled, ending any chances for a miracle comeback.

What’s next: Peyton Manning visits AT&T Stadium for the first time when the Denver Broncos come to town, and it is only the second time Manning will play in the area as a pro. Manning brought the 9-0 Indianapolis Colts to Texas Stadium on Nov. 19, 2006, and lost 21-14.

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