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.
They 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.
They 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. On Sunday, 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 had 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.
Can’t stay on the field: Offensively, the 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 onto a seam throw from Tony Romo and the Cowboys were forced to punt. The Chargers answered with Gates' backbreaking 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.