Now THAT's what you call a dress rehearsal. Whether you want to attribute the solid play to a return home from California, facing an overmatched opponent, the sign of a good team on the come or all three... this was a great performance by the Dallas Cowboys. Despite the end-game backups allowing the Rams to get back into the game late, the Dallas first strings and substitutes pretty much did everything they wanted to tonight.
Tony Romo came out dealing aces; connecting on 9 of 13 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns... in the first quarter! His main target, second-year wideout Dwayne Harris, hauled in both touchdown catches. The first was a bomb down the right side where Romo had two weeks to stand in the pocket, pick his ears, shuck some corn and two-step before launching the pass. The second was a crossing route where Romo felt pressure and released, with Harris wide open in the middle. Harris then split two tacklers before racing down the sidelines and invoking memories of his 2011 preseason opening performance.
That couldn't get him on the team last year, but it would appear this performance should earn him a spot on the 2012 '53'.
Although there is a HUGE caveat that Steven Jackson didn't run the ball once on the entire evening, the defense was still impressive in what they did face.
On the defensive side of the ball, the first team finally had Jay Ratliff and Jason Hatcher back on the line. They continued the impressive play of the preseason, holding the Rams offense to two 50-plus yard field goal attempts. They were the first six first-half points given up by the Cowboys during the exhibitions. The front seven consistently created pressure on Ram's quarterback Sam Bradford, without DeMarcus Ware who sat with his hamstring, thanks to the secondary and their great play on the inexperienced Rams receivers.
Chuck Norris Sean Lee and Jason Hatcher notched sacks, but the 'plenty of pressure' arrived thanks to extra seconds earned by the guys on the back end. The defense even notched a four-down goal-to-go stand that included a fourth-down pass breakup by rookie Morris Claiborne.
Unfortunately, there were some injuries that occured. if you were like me and stuck watching the Rams broadcast you wouldn't know.
Jay Ratliff apparently suffered an ankle sprain (some reports say "high" variety) and was seen walking on crutches in the locker room. Danny McCray suffered a neck sprain (x-rays negative). Matt Johnson reinjured his hamstring whiffing on a tackle. Somewhere in the process it appears that DeMarco Murray hurt his hand (Update: Murray's hand doesn't seem to be a big deal). We'll get updates as soon as possible on these and any I've missed.
As usual, we'll have plenty more as the week progresses, but for now follow the jump to see my other notes from the game action.
-- Hope to never see him again after next week, but Kyle Orton can get things done; and I had my doubts despite all the fanfare. 9/12 for 99 yards in the second quarter.
-- Felix Jones started a bit shaky including a blown blitz pick up that could have gotten Orton killed, but towards the end of his stint he reminded folks what he was worth. He showed wiggle on a run and a dump off for 13 and 9 yards respectively. Final total: 6 for 34 and two receptions for 23.
-- I still have concerns over Dan Connor in coverage. Beaten badly by TE Kendricks on a play.
-- Starting O-Line: Smith-Livings-Arkin-Bernedeau-Free. Not an upper echelon line, but there were plays that made you proud. Arkin finally had a bad game snap (to Orton); Cowboys benefited by bad refereeing there. Overall though, if Costa is going to upgrade Arkin, everyone should feel better than they did a few weeks ago when some of us were preaching patience.
-- DeMarco Murray is going to be special. He is SO ready for the regular season to start. Runs, dump offs.. he's ready. (Now I hear he hurt his hand, ugh.)
-- Wideout battle: Ogletree had a bad drop, but caught a bomb and had other nice catches. I can't see how the Cowboys aren't looking at Bryant-Austin-Ogletree-Harris-Beasley as the top five. The question is what happens with Coale. Holmes and Radway have dropped back, in my humble opinion.
-- I don't think you're keeping Manna Silva off this team. Big stick on a screen play, big stick where he legally leveled a Rams receiver and started on Special Teams first unit. The injury suffered to Danny McCray (neck sprain) and Matt Johnson's hammy issue recurring sealed the deal. Again, in my humble opinion.
-- Claiborne started off sluggish, allowing too much room and still backpedaling when receivers cut off their routes; but he made up for it late on that Rams drive near the end of the half. Two plays prior, there was a back shoulder fade to Pettis at the front pylon. Claiborne had decent position but if it was grabbed, Pettis would have been able to toe-tap.
-- Bruce Carter made a great open field tackle on 3rd and goal on an underneath pass. He had three tackles on the game.
-- Mario Butler got a sack on a CB blitz, but it's an asterisk. The QB watched him come in from 10 yards deep and just stared at him like a deer in headlights. Funny stuff.
-- Adrian Hamilton is making this team. Great pressure and strip sack on Kellen Clemens late in the game.
-- Lionel Smith will probably make the practice squad, but man he didn't have a good game at all. Repeatedly beaten tonight.
-- James Hanna continues to make plays in the offense. A pick that just looks better and better each week.