Pass protection problems prove costly for Chargers in loss to Cowboys

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) is sacked by Cowboys  linebacker Leighton Vander Esch.
Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert, sacked by Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, was kept under pressure by the Dallas defense.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Among the other errors for the Chargers in their 20-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, their issues upfront on offense and defense were just as glaring.

Backup right tackle Storm Norton struggled mightily against Dallas’ Micah Parsons, a linebacker who played a lot of defensive end Sunday out of necessity.

On the other side, the Chargers were dominated at times as the Cowboys amassed 198 yards in 31 rushing attempts, an average of 6.4 yards per carry.

Norton, a former XFL player, is filling in for veteran Bryan Bulaga, who is on the injured reserve list because of a back problem. Bulaga has to sit out at least two more games.

The Chargers didn’t punt against the Dallas Cowboys, but their problems with penalties proved costly in a 20-17 loss decided on a game-ending field goal.

Sept. 19, 2021


“He had some [plays] that I felt like he can learn from, for sure,” Chargers coach Brandon Staley said of Norton. “But I felt like he gave us a chance in the game. I felt like [quarterback] Justin [Herbert] was clean enough to operate.”

Herbert was sacked twice and hit eight times. Parsons had one of those sacks and four of those hits.

Tony Pollard finished with 109 yards in 13 rushes for Dallas. Ezekiel Elliott carried 16 times for 71 yards.

The Chargers were missing two starters on defense — tackle Justin Jones and cornerback Chris Harris Jr.

Breaking down the notable numbers behind the Chargers’ 20-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys at SoFi Stadium on Sunday.

Sept. 19, 2021

“We were just a little bit off on the first level, which caused our second level to be a little bit off,” Staley said. “There were a couple slants where we went the wrong way, which forced big openings in the middle.”


Staley said the problems were in execution and failing to play with enough physicality.

“We were in a lot of good run defenses from a personnel standpoint and a structure standpoint,” he said. “But we just a little bit off with our front mechanics, just a little bit off with our run fits.”

Through two games, the Chargers have given up 324 rushing yards and an average of 5.6 yards per attempt.