The Cowboys were without five starters on defense and a host of backups because of injuries.
Two defensive backs played after joining the team the day before the game.
So there are built in reasons why the Chargers offense ran and passed at will in a 27-7 victory Thursday night.
San Diego rushed 42 times for 152 yards and completed 14 of 16 passes for 243 yards, while amassing 24 first downs and punting just twice. Their first incompletion came with 14:24 remaining in the game.
The Cowboys understand preseason openers are about evaluating individual players more so than collective units on both accounts.
But the Cowboys offered no excuses. They have a long way to go to improve a defense that was last in the league last season and third-worst in NFL history.
“I think, at times, they did OK,” Garrett said. “I thought in general San Diego was able to move the ball too easily on us. They ran the ball on us. They threw the ball very effectively. I do think a couple of penalties we had helped their drives. So we have to address that as well. Playing different combinations of guys, but we’ll get a chance to evaluate them individually. But for the most part we didn’t make enough stops on defense. We’ll go back and look at that and hopefully improve.”
Marinelli had a smile on his face in the postgame locker room, and while he said he’s looking forward to watching the tape and getting back to work, he refused to sugar coat a dreadful performance.
“We got to tackle better; I know that,” Marinelli said. “We have to tackle better.”
Certainly the Cowboys felt good about stops in the red zone -- a forced fumble by safety Jeff Heath that resulted in a touchback and two tackles for loss that forced the Chargers to settle for a field goal.
But the Cowboys, who had only 34 sacks last season, didn’t get to the quarterback with any consistency, and they allowed the Chargers to run at will.
“It was some of the fits in the run game,” Marinelli said. “It was all of it. It’s not just one guy or one possession. It was all of it.”
Marinelli said the defensive line didn’t get off blocks in the run game. Garrett agreed that the gap control was a problem but he added that the Cowboys didn’t get off blocks on any level of the defense.
“I think in general gap control wasn’t where it needed to be,” Garrett said. “I don’t think we got off of blocks well enough at any level, the defensive line level, the linebacker level, and I don’t think we tackled very consistently throughout the game. That’s whatever group was out there. So, great opportunities for us as coaches to go back and point that stuff out, continue to work on the technique of that in practice.”