Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo returned to the gridiron Saturday night in preseason action against the Baltimore Ravens. Eight months after back surgery ended his 2013 season, Romo moved well in the pocket, looked comfortable in his reads, and was crisp with his throws in leading an 86-yard touchdown drive that heavily featured running back DeMarco Murray and wide receiver Dez Bryant. The Ravens would win the game 37-30, but the real winner was Cowboys nation and the healthy franchise quarterback.
“When you play long enough you’re always excited to play – progressions, reads, going through my mechanics, that’s always the same,” Romo said during an in-game interview. “…You never know coming off an injury how you’re going to feel… It’s nice to be able to see you can go out and play, the back holds up… It’s going well.”
Romo completed 4 of 5 passes for 80 yards and a touchdown. The lone incompletion was a drop from tight end James Hanna. Murray had six touches on the 9-play touchdown drive and Bryant capped it with a 31-yard touchdown reception. Bryant led all receivers with 3 catches for 59 yards and the long touchdown, which he caught in single coverage on a safety blitz.
Romo and Murray botched a handoff on the first series, and the fumble was returned for a touchdown, but the Ravens first-team defense did nothing to stop the Cowboys starters. The first-team offense ran 15 plays, and 8 of them were runs to Murray, who finished with 34 yards. Murray also caught a 21-yard screen pass that helped set up the touchdown pass to Bryant.
The Dallas first-team defense forced a punt and gave up a 40-yard field goal. They were aided by a rusty Joe Flacco. The Baltimore quarterback threw behind his open receiver on third down, killing the first drive. He threw high to his open receiver on third down in the second drive, and Cowboys safety J.J. Wilcox was able to knock the ball loose, forcing the field goal attempt.
The Cowboys starting offensive line ran two series with quarterback Brandon Weeden, and the backup looked capable in leading the Cowboys to a field goal. No. 2 wide receiver Terrance Williams got separation down the left sideline for what looked to be a sure, long touchdown pass from Weeden, but the ball was knocked away by a diving cornerback who didn’t even turn his head to find the ball. Looked like a good route by the receiver and a good pass by the quarterback, and the corner just got lucky.
Flacco perked up once the Cowboys backups took the field, though not right away. The backups forced a punt and yielded a field goal. Then rookie seventh rounder Terrance Mitchell replaced cornerback Orlando Scandrick and Flacco hit receiver Jacoby Jones for 38 yards and receiver Torrey Smith on a 19-yard touchdown pass on back-to-back plays.
Two plays earlier the Cowboys defense had held on third down, but defensive end George Selvie was called for roughing the passer. Selvie left his feet as Flacco threw. He didn’t wrap up, but he knocked Flacco to the ground and drew the flag. Twice earlier Weeden took similar hits, and the Baltimore defenders wrapped him up and drove him to the turf; no flags were thrown for the backup.
The Cowboys special teams was gashed again, yielding a 108-yard touchdown and 80 yards on two other kickoff returns in the first half. Backup running back Joseph Randle fumbled a kickoff near the end of first half.
- Hanna’s third-quarter touchdown was a thing of beauty, as the third-string tight end reached full extension to nab a Caleb Hanie pass at the 5-yard-line, absorbed a hit from the safety, then rolled into the end zone. It was Hanna’s second touchdown of the preseason.
- Second-year defensive tackle Zach Minter flashed in the fourth quarter. He showed quickness at the 3-tech position, penetrating the line and dropping the ball carrier in the backfield for a five-yard loss. On the next play, he bull-rushed the guard and strip-sacked the quarterback. The Cowboys offense would score, and on Baltimore’s first play after getting the ball back Minter recorded another sack.
- On the ensuing drive, running back Ryan Williams showed great power and burst on a 27-yard run, bowling over a safety before going down at the 3-yard-line, then punching it in two plays later for his first touchdown as a Cowboy.
- Backup quarterback Brandon Weeden’s play dropped off noticeably behind the second-string offensive line, as he was sacked twice and constantly harassed by the first-team Baltimore defense. Flashbacks of his Cleveland days, running for his life.
- Second-year tight end Gavin Escobar left the game with an apparent shoulder injury following a nice catch in the third quarter. He did not return.
- DeVonte Holloman left late in the fourth quarter with a neck injury and did not return.