The Cowboys took their second step towards the regular season tonight, with a 19-17 loss to the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders, like most NFL teams this weekend, were getting their first taste of the bright lights for 2013. For Cowboys fans, it was the first glimpse they've had of the veteran's they are used to watching; a stark contrast to last week's Hall of Fame tilt against the Dolphins of which only 5 projected starters took the field.
The game was a see-saw battle, with Dallas getting a halftime lead with their starters and primary backups and the Raiders taking a third quarter lead with the third-stringers. The Cowboys regained the lead in the fourth behind a nice drive led by third-string QB Nick Stephens, ending with a one-yard run by rookie Joseph Randle. A muffed punt by rookie BW Webb, who had all kinds of trouble tonight, gave Oakland the ball inside the Dallas 10. They'd kick a field goal to retake the lead.
Among expected key players, Dallas played without DT Jay Ratliff (hamstring), WR Terrence Williams (concussion), CB Morris Claiborne (knee), DE Anthony Spencer (knee). Several players would make their preseason debuts.
Dallas started the game off with a bang. With their defense taking the field first, the stars showed their worth quickly for the first unit. DeMarcus Ware penetrated and made a quick first down tackle. A few plays later, a blitz saw Jason Hatcher and Sean Lee convert on Raiders' QB Matt Flynn for a strip sack of which Hatcher recovered.
Despite offensive penalties that had direct impact on a couple of drives, fans were able to see what should be a common theme in 2013; Romo to Dez over and over again. On the team's second drive, the two connected for passes of 14, 26 and 15 yards as Bryant toyed with former Cowboys CB Mike Jenkins.
After the second team took over the defense, the bend but don't break nature of the Monte Kiffin defense was on full display. The Raiders had back to back drives of 12 and 15 plays but only escaped with 3 points as JJ Wilcox picked off Terrell Pryor in the end zone on the latter. Prior, Pryor was putting in work with the read option.
The second team offense hummed along under Kyle Orton, as he found Cole Beasley over the top for a beautiful connection right before the half to give Dallas their first touchdown of the game. Orton went 6 for 6 for the game. The Cowboys had left their starting offensive line in the game and they put in work for the team's four-minute drill.
Starting QB Tony Romo started the game and lasted for two drives. He was able to complete 6 of 8 passes for 88 yards without a score. Beyond the stats, Romo showed no significant remains from the procedure he underwent in April to remove a cyst from his back.
Of course the biggest offseason concerns for the Cowboys have been the play of their interior offensive line and that of their safeties. Unfortunately, the Raiders two biggest weaknesses are probably their defensive line and their receiving corps, so judgment of Dallas' performances should remain measured. However, the Cowboys were averaging over 5 yards a carry when leading 10-6 at halftime.
Along the line, the Cowboys got another extended look at their new center-left guard combination of rookie Travis Frederick and second-year man Ron Leary. Nothing that happened tonight will change any opinion that this is the best combination for the team to move forward with.
Mackenzy Bernadeau returned to game action after being sidelined from the first game with a hamstring injury suffered on the first day of training camp. Pending a reported move to bring veteran FA Brian Waters aboard after the team breaks training camp, this could be the starting lineup Dallas takes into the season opener against the New York Giants on September 8th.
FS Barry Church made his preseason debut and looked decent. He had an open field whiff but made a great stop in the hole a few plays later. Will Allen, currently playing with the 1's as he looks to fend off Matt Johnson and JJ WIlcox also saw his first action.
With Johnson out nursing a stress reaction in his foot, Wilcox and Eric Frampton manned the second-team safety positions.
As is the case with most preseason games save for the dress rehearsal, the guys fighting for the backup roles played the majority of the snaps. Wilcox, Beasley, and Dunbar stood out the most among those players, but all in all the Cowboys can't be very happy with the performance of most of the young guys. Things quickly turned sloppy as the inexperience showed through.
Health-wise, Cole Beasley injured his foot and had to be taken for X-rays.
It should be noted that the Cowboys special teams had a horrible game. They allowed a blocked field goal, hit a guy that called for a punt fair catch, allowed a 50+ yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter, and then muffed a punt that gave Oakland the ball at Dallas' 10.
In essence, it was a tale of two games for Dallas. From the guys you expect to see every Sunday, there was plenty to be enthusiastic about. From the rest... well, Jason Garrett won't be lacking for material when the team returns to Oxnard for their final week of training camp.
One fun aspect of the preseason is that the writers at the game get to interview players and coaches during the game. Here's a look at some takes from the Cowboys on the sideline.
Sean Lee: 'It felt great. For me, it has been a long time since I played, to get back out there and hit someone is) a of fun.' #cowboys— mike fisher (@fishsports) August 10, 2013
Romo: 'We had couple penalties that put us in a hole that cost us some points. something that we are going to correct real fast.' #cowboys— mike fisher (@fishsports) August 10, 2013
Tony Romo: "That (penalties) is something that we are going to correct real fast. You just can't overcome that stuff in the red zone."— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) August 10, 2013
Dez Bryant: "I hate the fact that we only had a couple of drives because we are really ready to go and in good shape."— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) August 10, 2013
Ware: 'I felt like we started the season out right. The six plays I was out there, I thought we did really good.' #cowboys— mike fisher (@fishsports) August 10, 2013
We'll have more in-depth analysis coming to you very soon, but seeing how so many were unable to watch the game live, allow this to quench your thirst for Cowboys football for now. If you're new to Blogging The Boys, stick around a while, register for the site and get in on the commenting. Have a look around.
More from Blogging The Boys:
- Cowboys 17, Raiders 19: Three Things We Learned, Three Things We Knew
- Cowboys @ Raiders: Review Of The Starters First Two Drives (Offense & Defense)
- Cowboys vs Raiders: Looking At The Cowboys Wide Receiver Competition
- Cowboys @ Raiders First Impressions: The Linebacking Corps
- Oakland Raiders 19 Dallas Cowboys 17: Game Recap With Player Quotes