The Cowboys went through two weeks of training camp, squeezing 21 sessions into San Antonio's Alamodome, before playing the Bengals Sunday Night. After an injury-clotted debut, the team had to turn around and face the Oakland Raiders four days later, in a week where they relocated their home base to Dallas -- temporarily -- and where they had no full-contact practices.
Tonight, they faced a Raiders team playing its first pre-season game. These ingredients suggested a sloppy, erratic affair in the offing. Fans know how sloppy Thanksgiving Day games can be on short weeks, even when the teams are in the middle of a season. Now, make the teams' legs heavy and their practice schedules light.
It was indeed an affair to forget, as both teams' defenses overran the offenses. At half-time, neither team had broken 100 yards of total offense.
Jon Kitna lead an early 3rd quarter field goal drive and Stephen McGee's unit added three more, but the 3rd teammers let Kyle Boller rally for two late scores. Fourth string QB Matt Nichols saw a pass bounce off Manny Johnson's hands into a Raiders' hands in the final minute. The pick was returned for a touchdown to produce the final score.
-- Special teams were the MVP tonight. David Buehler knocked his kickoffs for touchbacks. He put all his field goals down the center. The coverage teams were exceptional. Mat McBriar kept Dallas in control of the game when he sent a punt from his end zone to the Oakland 32. A Raiders penalty meant that Dallas punted from its two and put the Raiders on their 22.
-- "Number 77 has reported eligible." Dallas used Pat McQuistan as the short-yardage tight end tonight. The position is that depleted by injury.
-- ILB Leon Williams is playing himself into a job, in Dallas or somewhere else. He'll likely be the 5th ILB, after the starters and Jason Williams and Sean Lee. He's proven thus far that he deserved a long look. He keeps making plays. He did drop a sure interception at the Cowboys five which would have sealed the game at the 2:32 mark.
-- The mini-cloud follows him: Kevin Ogletree had the dropsies tonight. A bobble of a well-thrown Jon Kitna pass at the Raiders' five ended the Cowboys' promising 2nd-half opening drive. He did make some strong plays on special teams, but he needs more consistency.
-- Backup S Michael Hamlin left midway through the 3rd quarter with a neck strain.
-- Junior Siavii knows two NTs were selected with late-round picks this off-season. He continues to show better hand usage, meeting Jason Hatcher at Raiders QB Jason Campbell. Siavii also made some strong plays against the run, all against Oakland's starters.
-- Tonight ends three weeks of practices and games exclusively on artificial turf. I'm sure the players will welcome the cooler California temperatures and the green, green grass of Oxnard.
-- The new Big Cat? NT Josh Brent chased a Rock Cartwright screen down 20 yards past the line of scrimmage. He's active and he's eager. He needs more work on his
-- Buehler Watch: Four kickoffs, four touchbacks. Three field goal attempts, three made, with a long from 42 yards. Every kick was dead center.
-- Sloppy? Yes. But these guys have not scrimmaged in pads since last Thursday. Let's see how things progress in San Diego.