The Dallas Cowboys defeated the Cincinnati Bengals at the newly named AT&T Stadium on Saturday night, 24-18. The game was considered the starters “dress rehearsal” as many of them played more than at any other time so far this preseason. And for fans, this was the final opportunity to see their favorite players before the start on the regular season next month. And the Cowboys did not disappoint in what was their preseason home-opener.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo ended the game going 13 of 18 for 137 passing yards and two touchdowns. While his counterpart, former TCU Horned Frog Andy Dalton ended his night going 12 of 16 for 113 yards and one interception. Romo’s top target was wideout Dez Bryant who had 6 receptions on 7 targets for 54 yards and one score. Five of those catches were on the same scoring drive early in the second quarter.
Cowboys back-up quarterback Kyle Orton when a perfect 4 for 4 for 44 yards and a touchdown in a brief appearance late in the third quarter. That touchdown pass was to running back DeMarco Murray, who turned in his best performance of the preseason so far. Including that scoring reception, Murray also had 51 rushing yards off of 12 attempts. He was also benched in the first quarter after fumbling. Murray returned after half-time and performed well.
Dallas’ rookie running back Joseph Randle led the game in rushing with 66 yards on 16 attempts. But Bengals rookie half-back Giovani Bernard also had an impressive 39 rushing yards on just six attempts.
On defense, safeties Barry Church and Jeff Heath both had forced fumbles resulting in turnovers. And rookie corner B.W. Webb helped his cause for a spot on the Cowboys final roster by recording an interception. Another rookie, linebacker DeVonte Holloman, continued to impress in the preseason with a strong four tackle and one sack performance.
But it wasn’t all good news for Dallas as their special teams play continued to struggle. Cincinnati landed the first punch in the game as wideout Brandon Tate returned a punt 75 yards virtually untouched for a touchdown late in the 1st quarter. The play was a result of a re-kick after Cowboys punter Chris Jones made contact with the giant digital board with his initial punt. This was the first time in 284 regular-season punts that the ball actually got high enough to touch the board in regulation play.
The Cowboys were able to rally back in the second quarter, scoring two touchdowns through the air. The latter to wideout Miles Austin from Romo with just :40 seconds left in the first half. Austin finished the game with four catches on six targets for 59 yards and that score.
The Cowboys ended the game with a 26 yard Dan Bailey field goal with just :50 seconds left on the clock. Bailey did miss a field goal earlier in the game, going 1 for 2. But he was a perfect 3 for 3 on extra points.
Cincinnati attempted a literal last minute comeback as wideout Dane Sanzenbacher returned the final kickoff for 53 yards. But Cowboys’ corner Xavier Brewer intercepted Bengals back-up quarterback Josh Johnson to officially end the game.
Unlike last weekends’ six turnover debacle against the Arizona Cardinals, the Cowboys were able to hold on to the ball this go around. They won the turnover battle against the Bengals, 4-0. Unfortunately, the Cowboys continued to struggle with penalties, committing seven. They resulted in 65 total lost penalty yards. But the most important stat was the time of possession as the Cowboys nearly doubled the amount that the Bengals had.
The last time these two teams faced off was late last season in Week 14 at Paul Brown Stadium. The Cowboys narrowly defeated the Bengals 20-19 in that game. Dallas kicker Dan Bailey kicked a game-winning 40-yard field goal at the end of regulation.
After that game, the then 7-6 teams went in separate directions. Dallas ended up losing two of it’s final three games and narrowly missed the playoffs for the second year in a row. But Cincinnati went on to win the next three games after the Cowboys defeat ending their regular season with a record of 10-6 and earning a playoff wild card spot. Once in the post-season, the Bengals were ousted by the Houston Texans, 19-13.
It will be a quick turnaround for the Cowboys as their next and final preseason game is just five days away. They will again play at home against the Houston Texans on Thursday. None of the starters are expected to play in this game. Despite the lack of star talent, this will be the final chance for players on the roster bubble to prove themselves worthy of a spot on the legendary team.