The word is “swagger,” but Chargers defensive tackle Damion Square isn’t very fond of it.
There are better ways to describe the “it” the Chargers defense is playing with, the display that was clear as could be in the team’s 28-6 win Thursday against the Cowboys.
It’s confidence. It’s attitude. It’s ferocity. It’s speed. It’s control. It’s command.
Whatever — it’s swagger.
“We’re showin’ out, baby,” Square said. “We know the guys we’ve got. We know the personnel. We’ve got some special guys.”
Thursday, the Dallas Cowboys gained only 258 yards and scored one touchdown — as many as the Chargers defense scored.
Rookie Desmond King, known for his ball-hawking in college at Iowa, grabbed his first career interception. And, just as he did as a Hawkeye, he took that first pick back for a touchdown.
“It was amazing. First, it started with the interception like, ‘Wow, I’ve got the ball in my hands.’ And then when you go to the end zone and cross that line, you’re on national TV. Everybody in the world is watching,” King said. “And, you have your teammates with you — it’s just a great feeling to have.”
Cornerback Casey Hayward had the other pick, his third in the last two games.
The Chargers have won five of their last seven games, a stretch where they’ve taken 17 of the 19 turnovers they’ve forced this season.
“We have a chance to show the world. Everybody is watching this game,” Hayward said. “People were watching the Lions game, but more people are tuned into the Cowboys game.
“This is America’s Team, and that’s what we came to do — hit them in the mouth.”
All of their success can be tracked to the team’s sudden ability to stop the run. The Chargers were solid again, holding Dallas to only 79 yards.
The improvement against the ground attack came with familiarity to defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s defensive principles, schemes and assignments. And, it came with some tough talk between the players.
“The energy [we have], we’re not scared to confront each other,” Square said. “Every great defense I’ve ever been on, guys aren’t scared of that. It’s not pointing fingers necessarily, but it’s understanding the areas where we’ve got to get tight.”
That started with getting better on the ground. From there it bled into forcing turnovers and then, finally, turning those turnovers into points.
King’s interception return Thursday was the Chargers’ third defensive touchdown of the season — all in the last two games.
“You see it. We’re picking up on truly knowing where we should be and what we need to do and how it should look,” safety Tre Boston said. “… If you’re not an expert at what you’re doing in this defense, yeah, you can get gashed. But when you have the right pieces of the defense, the right guys — you can see it — you build more and more as the season goes.”
If there was bad news coming out of the lopsided win at Dallas, it had to do with rookie wide receiver Mike Williams, who left the game with a knee injury. He was seen leaving the stadium using crutches with a large brace on his right leg.
Williams had to be carted away during the Chargers’ opening drive, limping off the field after running a route on the only snap he played. He had been listed on the team’s injury report this week with a knee injury, but Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said he wasn’t sure that was pertinent.
“I know it was something with his knee, but I’m not sure what it is yet,” Lynn said. “… I’m not sure this has anything to do with the injury he had in practice. It was just sore in practice, but this was completely different.”
Williams, the Chargers’ 2017 first-round pick and No. 7 overall selection, missed almost the entire offseason and first five weeks of the season as he recovered from a back injury. In six games this year, he has nine catches for 84 yards.
Right tackle Joe Barksdale returned to the lineup after missing the past four games because of a foot injury. … Linebacker Hayes Pullard, who missed the Chargers’ last two games, returned from a neck injury and defensive end Chris McCain played after sitting out last week with a hamstring injury. …Quarterback Philip Rivers was quick to credit the Chargers’ offensive line, which held Dallas and the NFL’s top pass rusher, DeMarcus Lawrence, without a sack. … After not raising his fist during the national anthem the last two games because of the NFL’s program with the military, “Salute to Service,” tackle Russell Okung again raised a fist during the anthem to protest racial inequalities and police brutality.