It was kind of brutal. In beating the Houston Texans in the third preseason game, the Dallas Cowboys completely and totally dominated things. They more than tripled their opponents in total offensive yards, racked up four takeaways while surrendering no turnovers, and generally looked far superior in cruising to a 34-0 win. The only real negative for Dallas was too many penalties - but it is hard to find anything else to really criticize.
The Cowboys played their starters to open the game. Things got off to a rough beginning for the Dallas offense as Dak Prescott had his first two incompletions of the preseason, and the first string offense failed to score, the first drive that had happened to them.
But the defense gave every sign of being in regular season shape. On the Texans’ initial possession, their suspect offensive line collapsed and Taco Charlton got the hat trick, with a sack, forced fumble, and fumble recovery. Set up at the Houston 24 yard line, it didn’t take long for Prescott to get his team on the scoreboard. Facing a third and goal from the 12, he evaded pressure and found Michael Gallup in the end zone. Gallup had a defender right on his back but made the catch. The Cowboys had the lead, and would not look back as they went on to absolutely run away with the game.
Prescott’s night was done after that, with Cooper Rush coming in to finish the first half. Rush was solid, not spectacular, but he led the team on three scoring drives. Before he could do anything, however, the special teams stood up. The defense forced Houston into a punt attempt at their own 40, and Joe Thomas showed why he is such a valuable part of the team by blocking it and booting it down the field until he could finally corral the ball in the end zone.
After that, Rush would sandwich a short touchdown drive of his own between two Brett Maher field goals. That drive was capped by a one yard run by Alfred Morris, who bounced off the pile and got around left end to score. The Cowboys were helped immensely by a pass interference call drawn by Devin Smith in the end zone. But it was still a touchdown.
Mike White would come out after halftime, and the beleaguered quarterback started by leading the best drive of the night. He would go six for six passing, including what turned into a 12 yard touchdown. It came on a little dumpoff from play action to Jordan Chunn. It was the first time this preseason that White started to look comfortable on the field.
Oh, and it staked the Cowboys to a 34-0 lead. Scores in preseason are rather meaningless, but when they are that lopsided, you can take some things away from them. One is that the Houston offense has some major issues.
And the second is that the Cowboys may have a looming monster of a defense. While the offense had its moments, the defense seemed to come up with one big play after another - often literally. Kerry Hyder had back to back sacks. The Texans were limited to only 69 total yards in the first half - and only four through the air. They wisely pulled starting quarterback Deshaun Watson after that first series to protect him. And with the backups, they were simply unable to mount any real offense. That was largely because the Cowboys’ defensive line was wreaking absolute havoc throughout the game. And no one was more disruptive than Taco Charlton. His stat line was a bit incredible: Three total tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, and a pass defended. All in the first half.
Unfortunately, there was another little stat on Charlton: He left the game not once, but twice with an injury. There was no conclusive word, but it is hoped that he will be ready to go for week 1 of the regular season. He has had a good camp and preseason, but in this game, he certainly looked like he has taken a huge stride, showing power and speed.
The rest of the defense was impressive as well, but this game was all about the guys in the trenches. Not only were their very few successful pass plays by the Texans as the Cowboys amassed eight sacks, but very few runs got past the big bodies up front. Just look at the sacks: Charlton (2), Hyder (2), Christian Covington (1), Shakir Soto (1), Joe Jackson (.5), Trysten Hill (.5), Dorance Armstrong (.5), and Daniel Wise (.5). Oh, and for any who might wonder where Jalen Jelks was, he just led all the linemen with 4 tackles total, including 2 for a loss.
While the DEs and DTs were the stars of the show, the defensive backs were not letting their end of things down, as C.J. Goodwin and Donovan Wilson both had interceptions.
Offensively, Cedrick Wilson was one of the standouts, with three receptions for 37 yards, and just as importantly a sparkling 32 yard punt return to set up one of the scores. Just on that alone, you can bet he is going to make the 53 man roster.
It was not a perfect game from the Cowboys despite the lopsided score. It may be wise to take it all with a grain of salt, it being preseason and all. But when you can give your fourth string quarterback (Taryn Christion) a full quarter, in which he barely completed a pass, and still win by five scores, you must have something right.
What seems the best takeaway is that the reputed depth of the Dallas roster is a real thing. Their starters dominated, their second teamers dominated, the third string dominated, and the fourth stringers (when there was one) had a good time, too.
Outside of Charlton, the Cowboys seemed to get out of the game with no real injuries. But Houston was not nearly as lucky, as a late report was that Lamar Miller suffered a torn ACL on the first series for the Texans. Let’s hope the Cowboys go their usual route and just use the last preseason game to give some down-roster guys a chance to put some stuff on tape.
Because Dallas needs to protect the starters and key backups. They look more than ready to take on the New York Giants in a couple of weeks.