The Cowboys played a great game Thursday night. That is, the Cowboys that everyone knows and loves - meaning the first string offense. Yes, QB Tony Romo smiled his pretty face for a few series if only to stay out there long enough to prove the talented A-team runs like clockwork, just like last season.
But as soon as he was done for the night, so was the rest of the team. Veteran QB Jon Kitna replaced him for the remainder of the first half, only to put on more of a clown show than a passing clinic. He was clumsy, getting sacked and almost losing the ball on a few occasions. It was like watching last week's game against the Bengals, only this time they left the first string offensive line in with him. They thought that he would play better. They thought wrong.
Adding to the woes that haunt the second and third string lineups, an astonishing thirteen players were on the bench for the evening, plagued by injuries. Perhaps the greatest loss suffered is that of third spot TE John Phillips, whom was announced "out for season" at the beginning of the game. Second spot TE Martellus Bennett was also out, leaving the team with only Jason Witten and unknown rookie Dajleon Farr. Coach Phillips and crew reacted to this by playing more 3-WR plays, but also by filling the spot with RG Pat McQuistan. Really? Are you serious? An Offensive Lineman to fill Tight End? The Dallas Cowboys' pass-friendly TE? Really the best way to fill such a spot is with a FB that can actually block and make catches. But who knows, I think the injuries had them scared.
The second half quickly demolished any hopes that the 'Boys would pull off a win. Sure, they were leading, but the offense under the command of third spot QB Stephen McGee was bleeding all over the field. McGee was unimpressive, just as he was against the Bengals in Canton. By the fourth quarter, the only Cowboy on either side of the ball that seemed to still care about winning was WR Sam Hurd, making some spectacular grabs in traffic. He certainly should be bumped up the depth chart a few spots, if not simply for his hands alone.
For the last portion of the game, the Raiders managed to catch up and overtake the Cowboys with a touchdown and a field goal. On offense, fourth string QB Matt Nichols took over for McGee. Nichols showed some promise in Canton and in training camp, and one could say that he will soon have McGee's spot on the charts if not Kitna's as well. However, to seal the deal, he threw a pick which Oakland ran back for another touchdown. Oakland prevailed 17-9.
So as the preseason gets into gear, it has been very clear to the avid viewer and fan that Dallas is a team to beat this season. But as talented as they are on the first string, if any more injuries to such players occur, Dallas may fumble the season away. The second and third teams on both sides need a lot of work, and five preseason games isn't going to be enough. They have their work cut out for them in Oxnard. Will Dallas stay healthy enough to push on through a long, tough schedule and postseason to play as the true home team in the first-ever Dallas Super Bowl? It's a long season ahead.