Cowboys coach Jason Garrett didn’t mince words and wasn’t in a forgiving mood following Thursday’s 17-7 loss to the San Diego Chargers in the preseason opener for both teams.
Never mind that the Cowboys played without the bulk of the starters, including quarterback Tony Romo, tight end Jason Witten, running back Joseph Randle and tackles Doug Free and Tyron Smith.
Garrett was unhappy about two turnovers in the game, including a botched snap by backup quarterback Brandon Weeden that led to an easy touchdown for the Chargers and a fumbled punt by receiver Lucky Whitehead.
He criticized the offense for an inability to score points throughout the game and he was not pleased with the tackling on defense from any of the units.
“The stuff we need to work on is obvious,” Garrett said. “The first unit did a good job on the initial drive on offense. They made a critical fourth down. And the next play we snap the ball though the quarterbacks hand. They take over in the red zone with a chance to go in and score the touchdown. It’s about the ball the ball the ball. We didn’t take care of it there. We had another one on a punt return. It was a pretty decent return. the ball comes out at the end of the that. We gave them two opportunities inside the 50 yard line. You can’t make those mistakes in this league.”
The Chargers rushed 38 times for 135 yards in the game. Their 3.6 yards per carry wasn’t impressive. But their ability to continue running ball throughout game and especially in the red zone was troubling to Garrett.
“I don’t think the tackling was very good in defense,” Garrett said. “At different times we tackled well. But in general each of the units need to tackle better/ They made some red zone runs that were basic fundamental football. We didnt execute, getting our gaps, setting edges. Simple tackling the ball carrier. They ran the ball too easily thoughout the game, particularly around the scoring zone.”
Garrett said some individuals stood out on both sides of the ball and he was glad they got to see a lot of young players play.
But none of that changed the disappointing bottom line of the night.
“Some good guys jumped out on both sides of the ball,” Garrett said. “But as the game wore on we didn’t play as we need to needed to play. It’s about the ball. It’s about doing basic fundamental things. We didn’t do that well enough.”
From the naked eye, it appeared that third quarterback Dustin Vaughan and fourth quarterback Jameill Showers showed up well in the preseason opener. Vaughan completed 12 of 18 passes for 106 yards. Showers was 5 of 11 for 40 yards. But he was also undone by couple of drops.
Garrett said their play didn’t result in points on the scoreboard.
“Ultimately, we didn’t move the ball and score enough points with any of the units,” Garrett said. “We got Showers in there too. It was good to see him play. You got to convert third down. You got to keep drives alive. You got to get down in the red zone and score points. We didn’t do that enough.”
Even undrafted rookie running back Gus Johnson, who was forced to start because of injuries to the top three running backs, didn’t escape the wrath Garrett. Johnson rushed 13 times for 35 yards and scored the team’s only touchdown on a 5-yard run before leaving the game with a shoulder strain.
The Cowboys rushed 23 times for 70 yards as a team.
“I thought he handled himself well,” Garrett said. “He stuck it up in there a few times. He made some good runs for us. Overall, we didn’t run the ball as well as we need to run and he was part of that. But everybody was a part of that.”