The Dallas Cowboys identity for the last few years has been simple; run the football and score points. That wasn't the case last Thursday when they faced the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Cowboys threw the football often and played tough defense.
Dallas' defense made it challenging at times for Tampa's offense. They held Leonard Fournette, and Ronald Jones to 13 carries for 46 yards, so running the ball was tough.
The one thing that jumped out in the box score was the four turnovers that the defense was able to cause.
"They forced a lot of turnovers last week, and that's something that we have to be smart about going into this week," said Herbert. "We have to emphasize fundamentals and ball security because they did a good job forcing turnovers last week. They've got real athletic guys, and those linebackers are some of the best in the world."
The Cowboys do have some athletes at linebacker with Leighton Vander Esch, Keanu Neal, and Micah Parsons while also throwing in Jaylon Smith. Parsons was the 12th pick in this year's draft, which was one position before the Bolts selected Rashawn Slater.
They might face off this Sunday. The Cowboys won't have Demarcus Lawrence and might not have Randy Gregory on the edge unless he tests negative twice before Sunday. Dallas might try to have Parsons rush the passer, which would mean going up against Slater.
"He's one of those guys that you have to block you have to find him wherever he is on the field," said Herbert. "He sees been able to do plenty of good things on defense, and whether he's lined up over tight ends running backs, or whether he's blitzing, you know, he's been all over the field and making plays."
The Cowboys secondary was hot and cold that Thursday night. They are featured by cornerback Trevon Diggs (Bills receiver Steffon Diggs younger brother) and Anthony Brown opposite him, with Jourdan Lewis as their slot corner.
"They've got some really good cover, guys," explained Herbert. "They run some pretty good coverages, and they're well-coached. So, it's going to be on us to find our matchups and to win those."
Diggs and Lewis intercepted Brady last week. Diggs had the ball fall in his lamp when Fournette was thrown a pass, and he let it go through his hands. Lewis intercepted him when the Hail Mary was thrown before halftime. So, they weren't really Brady's fault.
Former Falcons head coach Dan Quinn runs this Cowboys defense.
"We're kind of going off in the preseason games with the Cowboys played, kind of put together a game plan, because it's not really similar to what the Falcons ran last season," said Herbert.
The Chargers played the Falcons last season, but that was with Raheem Morris as the interim coach. So, the Chargers have limited film to watch from this version of Quinn's defense, but expect Staley's offense to be ready.
"When you're brand new, you're trying to figure out your pieces and getting them where you want them and stuff like that," said Brandon Staley. "I think what definitely expressed itself in the first game is that they're going to play hard. That's a staple of Dan Quinn; they're going to play really hard. They're talented. They have a lot of players on that group. They're at the beginning, so they're trying to get it together just like we are. But I expect a team that plays really, really tough."
One of the things that Quinn's defense does well is disguising their defensive scheme. The disguises of the Buffalo Bills, New England Patriots, and Miami Dolphins gave Herbert trouble last season.
The second-year quarterback has learned from those mistakes and seen the film on all three games. Sunday will be a good test for him.
"I think anytime you disguise your looks and make the offense, think the coverage of something else and be able to bring pressure drop guys out from other places," explained Herbert. "I think that's always a challenge. Teams that disguise really well are normally pretty good teams."
The Chargers will have to limit mistakes against the Cowboys. Herbert threw one interception against Washington and then the defense made them cough it up on the very next play. Dallas' offense is too talented, and they will make the Chargers pay.
"They want to takeaway battle in the first game, which gave them a real chance in that game," said Staley. "That's always been a hallmark of a Dan Quinn operation, hunting the football. That showed up in the first game, too."
If the Chargers are to win this game, it will have to be on the arm of Herbert. Last week, Antonio Brown, Chris Godwin, and Rob Gronkowski combined for 22 catches for 316 yards and four touchdowns.
"Tampa Bay receivers looked like they were having some fun out there," said receiver Mike Williams.
It is a talented secondary, so Keenan Allen and Williams will need to be on their game on Sunday. They had good production on combining for 182 yards and a touchdown.
The Chargers receivers and tight end Jared Cook might put up big numbers with all of the players the Cowboys' defense is missing. Cook has said numerous times how excited he is about working with Allen and Williams.
"Whenever you want to be part of a high-powered offense, you need guys that play bigger than what they are. Some of the catches that Mike was catching were unbelievable," said Cook. "Some of the quick throws that Keenan was able to get his eyes and his hands on were also unbelievable. Those guys create separation. Even when they don't create separation, the one that Mike caught to kind of seal the game, or help seal the game, no separation at all — that was just trust between him and Justin [Herbert]."
No matter the numbers put up in Tampa or the players missing for the visiting team, the Chargers aren't taking them lightly because that is how mistakes are committed. This team is trying to show that they are not the same ol' Chargers.