Now that's more like what we want to see. The first game in the new stadium was definitely a success for the Dallas Cowboys as they romped to a 30-10 preseason win over the Tennessee Titans. The Cowboys dominated the game on offense and defense, and only the familiar bugaboos of penalties and special teams kept the thing from becoming a rout early on.
Let's get a couple things out of the way. The new stadium is freakin' outrageous. But...only a few punts into the game and the Titans punter nailed the video board dangling from the roof. Unbelievable. It was a do-over! In the NFL?! Guess Jerry will have some guys working on some new plans to raise it soon.
Back to what really matters and that's how the Cowboys played. The first units built on their game from last week and manhandled the Titans for most of the half. The only problem was that on the scoreboard they were not dominating in the first half. After a poor first series where Tony Romo got lucky not to be picked off, the offense came back on the second series, just like last week, and put together a long drive to score a TD. The Cowboys were able to run the ball with Marion Barber and strung a few passes together to Roy Williams. The offensive line provided good protection and the one time they didn't Romo pulled out a vintage Romo-play. Stepping up to avoid the rush on a blitz, he composed himself long enough to float a beautiful pass over the defense to his security blanket, Jason Witten. That pass set the Cowboys up for an easy score on the goal line.
More after the jump...
The offense followed up with another long drive that ate up the clock, but this time, they were thwarted by their own mistakes. A false start by Marc Colombo and Leonard Davis on a fourth and short forced the Cowboys back and brought out Nick Folk for a FG. Folk proceeded to plunk the upright for a miss. Another drive was stunted by an uncharacteristic drop on third down from Sam Hurd. Right before the half, in typical Romo fashion, he manufactured a one-minute drive right that was powered on the legs of Felix Jones. That drive ended up in another TD and made the scoreboard match the statistics to some degree.
Overall, the starting offense had a nice night. Romo was very sharp, Roy got involved early, both Barber and Jones were effective and the offensive line did a very nice job of protecting Romo and opening holes. Outside of too many penalties, and that went for the whole team, the offense was very effective and has been in both preseason games.
The defense did a very good job of stifling the Titans running game. In the first half, the Titans couldn't find any space for their backs and had to rely on their passing game for any of the damage they did. Special teams gifted the Titans a field goal when they gave up a big return and a personal foul that set Tennessee up for three points, even though the defense totally shut them down.
On the Titans last drive though, the defense stumbled. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, blown tackles on the same play by Ken Hamlin and Bradie James, and Mike Jenkins inexplicably turning a WR over to the safety much too early in the pattern, led to a Titans TD.
It would have been nice to see them pitch a shutout (except for the FG which wasn't heir fault) but only giving up the seven points and not letting the Titans establish any kind of running game made for a successful evening.
Now, before we get too happy, Dallas showed the same self-destructive tendencies that hurt them last year. The special teams were again very sloppy. A long return by Miles Austin on the opening kickoff was called back for a Sam Hurd holding call (yes, it was questionable). Patrick Crayton muffed a punt and was lucky he was able to recover it, ditto DeAngelo Smith. They gave up the aforementioned long kickoff return then Gerald Sensabugh compounded the problem by picking up a late-hit penalty. Nick Folk, for the second time in two games missed a FG. There were also numerous penalties on the special teams units. Joe D has a couple of more games to get this straightened out. On the positive side, David Buehler put three kicks into the endzone, one for touchback and two that were returned.
Then there were the penalties for the whole team, too numerous to count. False starts, holding calls, personal fouls, the list goes on. You know it's bad when the referee calls a false start and announces it to the audience as "false start on everyone but the center." I kid you not. Dallas has got to get its penalty problem under control this year.
Another bright spot was the play of the second and third units. Unlike last week when they were a disaster, this week, they managed to do some very good things. The defense held the Titans scoreless in the second half. They got a turnover, they were able to control the run unlike last week, all together it was a much better effort. On offense, Jon Kitna was able to direct a TD drive and Stephen McGee also got himself a TD pass.
Without going to deep into the second and third teams, there were some guys who stuck out this week. Kevin Ogletree just made his move to unseat Isaiah Stanback as the number five receiver. I was discussing this issue today on ESPN Radio 1250 in San Antonio and mentioned that Ogletree would have to make some plays to win the competition; if all things were equal the Cowboys would probably just keep Stanabck. Well, things are not equal as Ogletree had a few receptions including a fantastic TD catch. One guy on defense who made his comeback this week was my pet cat from early in camp, Steve Ocatvien. He had a few tackles and tipped the pass that was eventually intercepted. Jason Williams managed to run a nice delayed blitz for a safety. Jon Kitana finally found a little bit of rhythm in the offense when he connected with Martellus Bennett a few times and with Ogletree.
And a special shoutout to Keon Lattimore. That guy is a different player this year. He's running as hard as a back can and he's showing some moves to get extra yards. For the second week in a row, he's been playing some ball. Too bad for him he's stuck behind the three-headed monster.
I forgot one thing, no major injuries - except to the video screen and Jerry's pride.
[UPDATE]: Spoke too soon about the injuries, rookie OLB Brandon Williams tore his ACL and is lost for the season. See Aaron's post.