It’s hard to put the definition of a “friendly” game on any kind of NFL contest, and yet the feeling from the Miami Dolphins beating the Dallas Cowboys 25-20 was that of two teams who weren’t planning on giving their best shot when their starting quarterbacks, Tony Romo and Ryan Tannehill, were on the field.
Romo is coming off back surgery, so it seems that this preseason is less about putting him in sync with his receivers and offensive line, which hasn’t seen too many changes, and more about seeing that he’s healthy and ready to put up another season with big numbers, yet hopefully with fewer late-game collapses. Romo finished with 10-of-18 for 87 yards but was also sacked three times, twice by Cameron Wake.
He connected with Dez Bryant four times as his number one receiver finished the game with 32 yards. Jason Witten who hasn’t featured much in preseason and DeMarco Murray who also caught a pass were involved in the passing game. Ryan Williams was quite active in both offensive “formats”, and later on Laron Byrd caught a touchdown pass from Brandon Weeden, finishing with 5-of-9 for 77 yards facing the backups.
The Dolphins probably had more reasons to smile after the game. Not just Matt Moore doing a good job in leading the backups to a win thanks to two late touchdowns in the fourth quarter, coming back from an 11-20 deficit in less than six minutes, but also Tannehill doing a good job overall in the preseason. He threw his first interception and didn’t have the best of games, but overall the feeling in Southern Florida is that he is headed into something of a breakout year, if that hasn’t happened already.
Aside from the defense, doing a very good job when it came to finding holes in the Dallas offensive line, the running game worked very well against a Cowboys unit everyone is predicting to put on bad numbers, just like they did last year. The Dolphins finished with 200 yards on 35 carries, including Orleans Darkwa running for a touchdown and 70 yards on six carries, Knowshon Moreno adding 64 yards and some good runs from Lamar Miller and Damien Williams as well.
Mike Wallace, who had a miscommunication with Tannheill on what could have been a big 35-yard touchdown reception, finished with six catches for 67 yards. The Dolphins feel like this is the season they make the AFC East a much more competitive division again, but that sense of optimism wasn’t mirrored by the Dallas Cowboys, once again taking a very flawed team into a season, with too many of its hopes riding on the ability of Tony Romo to change.