The absolute worst thing that could happen for the Dallas Cowboys was for Tony Romo to get injured in a meaningless preseason game. That is exactly what occurred, just three plays into the first drive in the game against the Seattle Seahawks. Romo scrambled out and grabbed at his back when he was down on the field. Looking at it live, it was frightening. The thought had to go through everyone’s mind that we might have to find out just how good Dak Prescott is way sooner than we wanted to.
Reports from the bench were that the injury was not serious, just a twinge or tightening up that startled and perhaps frightened Romo more than anything. He wanted to return to the field, but the coaches sat him down, probably until September 11. We will all hold our breath until we find out more about the injury and if it is indeed not significant. But with Romo’s history of back problems, there is now a big shadow cast over the season. Romo was not hit hard, and it is difficult to have a great deal of confidence that he will hold up.
Meanwhile, there was still a football game to be played. While the game wound up as a loss for Dallas, they showed that, when the starters were on the field for both teams, with the notable exception of the Cowboys’ starting quarterback, the teams were very evenly matched. Given that the Seahawks are considered one of the best teams in the league, that is a good thing to determine, despite the Cowboys being defeated by a final score of 27-17.
Romo’s injury left the offense in the hands of Prescott, with Ezekiel Elliott to help. And in the second drive of the night for the Cowboys, Prescott and Elliott combined to march the ball efficiently down the field in an 81 yard drive. Elliott got 40 yards on the ground, and Prescott capped it with a 17 yard touchdown pass to Jason Witten.
Prescott did prove to be human, however. He was unable to sustain drives the way he did in the first two games where the Cowboys scored on nine of the ten drives he led. However, he continues to display poise. He called a timeout to avoid a penalty. He continues to keep his eyes downfield. And he was playing against the starters for one of the best defenses in the league.
Nothing demonstrated Prescott’s potential more than the drive he led at the end of the first half. With 3:17 left, and down 10-7, he took the Cowboys from their own 25 to field goal range for Dan Bailey. Prescott managed the game, kept his cool, and got the score tied at the end of the half. He simply does not look like a rookie who is having to make serious adjustments to play the NFL game. Some people still think Dallas needs to bring a veteran quarterback on board, especially with the scare about Romo’s back, but it is hard to figure out exactly what an experienced backup would bring with them. How to lose gracefully? Prescott went toe to toe with Russell Wilson and the rest of the Seahawks starters. The first half ended in a 10-10 draw. Prescott may no longer have the astronomical rating he managed for the first two games, but he is pretty clearly not in over his head.
The Seahawks followed their plan of keeping their first team on the field well into the third quarter, while the Cowboys had their backups out to oppose them. Dallas held Seattle to a field goal attempt on their first possession of the second half, but Russell Wilson completed a touchdown pass after a long roll-out to evade pressure. A 10-10 tie quickly became a 20-10 Seattle lead. The Seahawks backups would push it to 27-10, as the Cowboys go sloppy defensively and made too many errors.
The running game is just getting stronger. Elliott finished his night with 48 yards and a 6.9 yards per carry average. It was a limited sample, but all the evidence is that the Cowboys have exactly what they want in him.
Defensively, Dallas continued to be very stiff in the red zone in the early going. After the Seahawks drove down inside the 10 yard line, they stopped them and forced a field goal. That was a win, and if this is a trend for the Cowboys, it is a good one. They had two red zone stops last week against the Dolphins as well.
Early on, the penalties were being committed by the Seahawks and not the Cowboys. The flags helped Dallas’ defense get off the field twice. And the two minute drive at the end of the first half was aided by an illegal contact flag drawn by Cole Beasley. Dallas was only flagged once the entire first half, and the announcers did not think it was a very obvious infraction.
Morris Claiborne had two near interceptions in the first half. Either would have been a very good play if he had been able to hold on to them, but he needs to come up with one of these opportunities.
Brice Butler had a solid game receiving, as did Geoff Swaim. Swaim is not very elusive with the ball in his hands, and he is mostly the checkdown option, but he had five receptions by halftime, and seems to be almost certain to make the roster.
Late in the game, Jameill Showers got things going and led a nice drive, which helped make up for a foolish fumble he committed. He marched the team down the field and completed a nice backshoulder pass to Rodney Smith for a touchdown to make the final score look a little better.
The big story from the game is Romo’s health. Jerry Jones stated in the booth early in the second half that Romo was not really injured, just a bit rattled, and could have gone back into the game. We are all hopeful the GM is correct and Romo will be ready to go after spending the rest of the preseason in protective bubble-wrap. However, Dak Prescott proved once again that he is quite capable of stepping in and getting the job done. It was not the way we would have chosen for things to go, but at least we know that there is some hope should something happen to Romo. Still, we certainly hope it does not come to that. But with Romo’s history, we had better be prepared.