ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 13: Quarterback Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers drops back to pass against the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on December 13, 2009 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
It seemed for a great portion of Sunday's 20-17 loss to San Diego that Philip Rivers and the Chargers offense knew exactly what was coming from the Cowboys' defense; there is good reason for this. Because they did, at least to some degree.
Norv Turner, who himself has a long history with the Cowboys franchise, used Wade Phillips' tenure as defensive coordinator in San Diego to his advantage; not hard, considering that the defense Dallas runs now is strikingly similar to the one he left in San Diego, in the hands of the more than capable Ron Rivera.
This familiarity, however, goes only so far in explaining the whys and hows of the Dallas loss. Jason Garrett, for example, is a Norv Turner protege. His offense--similar to Turner's--goes against Wade Phillips' defense, which is similar to Rivera's, each day in practice. It may be safe to assume in this case that, very simply, the better team won.
For Dallas's defenders, though, the predictability of their schemes as they pertain to San Diego's offense was certainly a detriment on Sunday, when, at crucial points in the game, they found themselves unable to slow the Rivers-led charge. Linebacker Bradie James compared it to a division game, only possibly more difficult.
"Philip Rivers was out their calling our defense out," James said. "He's very familiar with us. The line, you know, they knew all of our line stunts, so they knew us well. It was like playing an NFC East game, a division game but even better, because they go against the same defense, pretty much, every day."
Asked whether facing a similar offense to that of Jason Garrett helped their preparation, James said, simply "no," adding that the Chargers offense was the most difficult they have faced to this point. He may, of course, have to retract this statement after Saturday, when Dallas heads to New Orleans to play the undefeated Saints.