Most folks would agree that the Dallas Cowboys effort against the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday was, shall we say, less than stellar. One could pretty much start and end with the 6 turnovers and eventual 12-7 loss, and you can surmise how the day went for the Cowboys. When I meet people, I often solicit their Cowboys opinions, and local Dallas area Title Boxing Club Trainer Alex Melendez summed up the feelings of many fans perfectly when he said, “I love the Cowboys, but I stopped wishing upon a star years ago.”
What Alex and many other True Blue Dallas Cowboys fans regularly express are that this Cowboys team makes them wary. The Cowboys will flash incredible execution and capabilities one moment, but then break hearts on the next play. During one series on Saturday, running back Lance Dunbar made an impressive run, then he fumbled the ball at the end of the play. These miscues create an overarching mistrust which is hard for some fans to shake.
Another example of Cowboys brilliance followed by defeat was during the second quarter when Quarterback Tony Romo and Wide Receiver Dez Bryant were dominating through the air attack. At the 14 minute mark, the Romo to Bryant connection beat one of the league’s best Cornerbacks in Patrick Peterson on a beautiful back shoulder perfectly positioned throw and catch down the sideline, then just a few plays later Dez coughed up the ball. While there was certainly a lot of good then ugly plays, there were some true gems to take away from the game for the regular season.
- The first team offensive line, which played until 5 minutes were left in the third quarter, was incredibly effective protecting Quarterbacks Tony Romo, Kyle Orton, and Alex Tanney. That Cowboys first string o-line gave up only one sack through three quarters, and the second team offensive line yielded just one additional sack. The QB protection was outstanding, and a welcome change from last season.
- Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffin’s Tampa Two “bend but don’t break” defense did not allow a touchdown the entire game. While the Cowboys defense did give up 365 total yards to the Cardinals, they prevented the big plays as designed, and kept Arizona out of the End Zone.
- As previously touched upon, Tony Romo and Dez Bryant, particularly towards the end of the second quarter were dominant against the Cardinals defense. Romo was precise and Bryant’s routs were crisp, and had Romo seen Bryant split the defenders up the right hash mark instead of making an overthrown toss to rookie Wide Receiver Terrance Williams on the opposite side, Dez would have had a sure touchdown. The Romo Bryant connection is salty and will be fun to watch this season.
- Rookie running back Joseph Randle has led the Cowboys rushing attack in two of three preseason games, and again led Dallas against the Cardinals. Randle also excelled at blocking out of the backfield versus Arizona. During the fourth quarter, Dallas faced a third and two, and Randle picked up the blitz to the right with a perfect undercut block taking out two defenders and allowing rookie Tight End Gavin Escobar to make the catch for a first down. On the Cowboys only TD, Randle again made a nice block freeing up Escobar to the outside for the score.
In the grand scheme of things, this Cowboys vs. Cardinals preseason game is meaningless, but the Cowboys turnovers and sloppy play were certainly unexpected.
Quarterback Tony Romo summarized the lack of execution in his post game interview, “Tonight was not what we were looking for, and was not winning football.”
I do think there were some very positive things to take away from this game, and I think the Cowboys will get the negatives resolved. If this Dallas offensive line can keep protecting like they are, the Tony to Dez passing game continues dominating opposing backfields, and the Cowboys defense continues to prevent touchdowns, I have confidence we will not see another sloppy game like this one again. Take heart Cowboys Nation, it’s just the preseason!