The Dallas Cowboys needed a big game from their quarterback, Tony Romo, and the first team offense, to start shedding the doubts about a team that didn’t do badly early in the preseason, but seemed to struggle putting points on the board when the predicted starters were on the field. From the passing game to the running game, the Cowboys looked sharp from almost every angle.
They ended up beating the Cincinnati Bengals 24-18 with a very strong 14-point second quarter, as Tony Romo finished the game with 13-of-18 for 137 yards and two touchdowns, one to Dez Bryant and one to Miles Austin. The two premier receivers for the Cowboys finished with a total of 10 receptions for 113 yards, while Romo’s default option of Jason Witten had to settle for only one catch and 11 yards, targeted just once compared to 13 for the top two receivers.
The Cowboys still show many problems on their first-team offensive line. Doug Free played at right guard, Jeremy Parnell at right tackle and Mackenzey Bernadeau at left guard. The only guys staying in their original positions were Tyron Smith at left tackle and Travis Frederik, their first-round draft pick, at center.
With all the changes going on, it wasn’t surprising to see Tony Romo sacked twice early on, while the running game struggled with only 2.5 yards per carry in the first half. Once they were replaced, things went a little bit smoother for the rushers, as the Cowboys finished with 154 yards on 43 carries, including 51 yards on 12 carries for DeMarco Murray and Joseph Randle putting on 66 yards from 16 carries.
Murray fumbled the ball in the first half which got him benched, but he returned for a few more carries in the second half, and looked quite confused and frustrated by being taken out of the game a lot earlier than he expected to be. The Cowboys didn’t try to hide the fact that it had to do with his fumble, but Murray, with all of his injuries through his first two NFL seasons, should be happy about being used lightly at this stage.
The Cowboys did a great job in creating turnovers, which seems to be the main goal for the defensive crew this season besides making and adjusting to the shift from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense. Andy Dalton and Josh Johnson were each intercepted once, while Marvin Jones and Cobi Hamilton each fumbled the ball over. Getting sacks and a lot of pressure on Dalton was a bit more difficult for Dallas.
The Cowboys, and the rest of the league, are facing the cuts from 88 to 75 players before the final slimming down to the regular-season roster of 53. With so many injured players, it’s going to be a very tough decision. The most notable of them is Morris Claiborne, still without a preseason game in 2013 and probably without one at all, even though he should be healthy for the fourth and final one against the Houston Texans.
The Cowboys looked better than before with the way Romo found people in the endzone. It’s hard to say this is the year for him because each season seems to be that. But needless to say, without a good Romo and a solid offensive line, the streak of missing the playoffs will just grow longer and longer.