The Dallas Cowboys edged a close Monday Night Football contest with the Los Angeles Chargers as Dak Prescott made the plays that Justin Herbert couldn't, leading his team to a 20-17 victory.
The Cowboys bounced back from their 42-10 blowout at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers last week to move to 4-2 on the season, only a game behind the previously perfect Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East.
But Chargers head coach Brandon Staley is now firmly on the hot seat after Los Angeles, +130 to make the playoffs, fell to 2-3 ahead of a tough trip to Arrowhead Stadium to face the Kansas City Chiefs on a short week.
Prescott went 21 of 30 passing for 272 yards and a touchdown toss to Brandin Cooks while Dallas' quarterback used his legs for an additional 40 rushing yards and a TD on seven carries.
It was a much better night for the Cowboys' pass attack with CeeDee Lamb targeted early and often in response to the wide receiver's damning comments about their lack of offensive identity.
He hauled in catches for gains of 11 and 23 yards on Dallas' second drive and finished with a game-high 117 receiving yards on seven receptions.
Tony Pollard, who finished with 110 yards from scrimmage on 21 touches, made his biggest impact with a catch and run that turned the game Dallas' way on the first play of the fourth quarter.
The running back broke a tackle to make a 60-yard gain from Prescott's dump-off pass after the quarterback narrowly avoided being sacked on a busted play.
Six plays later, Cooks made his first significant contribution since his offseason arrival from the Houston Texans with a two-yard touchdown catch.
It had been a quiet night in the stat column for Micah Parsons, who moved to linebacker due to the loss of Leighton Vander Esch to injury, but the +175 favorite in NFL Defensive Player of the Year betting came up with the key sack of Herbert on the Chargers' final drive.
The Chargers' secondary was supposed to be their main area of weakness, but it was on offense that had averaged 27 points per game through the first four weeks that failed to deliver.
Herbert finished with 227 passing yards, two touchdowns and an interception, but he overthrew leading wideout Keenan Allen twice.
Those errors proved costly as the quarterback again lost a close one, his 20th defeat in 38 games decided by one score since he entered the league in 2020.
Los Angeles garnered only 53 rushing yards on the night and Herbert's pocket kept on collapsing with the Cowboys generating pressure on 47.6% of his dropbacks, the highest rate of pressure the Chargers QB has faced in any game this season.
"Keenan ran two great routes, and I missed him, so that's on me as a quarterback," Herbert admitted later.
"And we had those explosive opportunities, and we have to capitalize on those. That's a really good defense we're going against. I can't miss throws like that, and you know, expect to continue to get back on third down and get back on track."
Dallas had been unable to dig themselves out of early holes in their Week 3 and Week 5 losses to the Arizona Cardinals and 49ers respectively.
Head coach Mike McCarthy decided they should start the game with the football instead of deferring in a bid to avoid falling behind, but his offense went three-and-out on its opening drive.
And Dallas' defense was powerless to stop Herbert from engineering a 42-yard drive for touchdown after Derius Davis set them up inside Cowboys' territory with a 26-yard punt return.
An ineligible man downfield penalty erased a 27-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Josh Palmer, but Herbert hit Allen for a one-yard score two plays later to give the Chargers a 7-0 lead.
The Cowboys hit straight back with a 75-yard scoring drive of their own, capped off by Prescott's 18-yard run to the end zone on a read-option play.
That quarterback keeper was one of four offensive plays that were run on fourth down over the course of the game and only Dallas' second successful conversion of one from seven attempts this season.
The Cowboys failed on their other just before halftime when opting for the "Tush Push' quarterback sneak when facing fourth-and-one in the red zone.
The Chargers stuffed the play at their own 13-yard line, forcing a turnover on downs as Prescott didn't get enough of a shove to pick up the yard required.
Dallas stopped Los Angeles from converting a fourth down attempt in their red zone on the Chargers' first drive of the second half when cornerback DaRon Bland, filling in for Trevon Diggs after his season-ending ACL injury, sprinted all the way across the formation to break up the would-be touchdown pass to Palmer.
Los Angeles later leveled the scores at 17-17 on a TD pass to tight end Gerald Everett from one-yard out for their sixth fourth-down conversion of the campaign from 10 attempts. Dallas won the game with a field goal just before the two-minute warning, and Stephon Gilmore intercepted a pass on the final Chargers drive to seal it.