- Calvin Watkins, ESPN Staff Writer
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- As expected, the Cowboys' first-team offense and defense played the majority of the first half in their best performances of the preseason. Tony Romo threw two touchdown passes and the defense, with the return of starters Jay Ratliff, Jason Hatcher and Anthony Spencer, beat the St. Louis Rams, 20-19, Saturday night at Cowboys Stadium.
What it means? The Cowboys' preseason home opener couldn't have gone any better with the first-team offense scoring 17 points, the most this summer. The first-team defense held the Rams without a touchdown. The Cowboys did have one major injury, as safety Danny McCray left the game with a strained neck. Coming into the contest, the Cowboys were missing nine players, a list which included starting outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware.
How did Romo perform?: The Cowboys' starting quarterback threw his first touchdown passes of the preseason, both to wide receiver Dwayne Harris. Romo connected on passes of 61 and 38 yards. It seemed as if Romo got better as the preseason wore on. The fact he he did it with backup receivers tells you a lot about how Romo makes players better. Romo completed nine of 13 passes for 198 yards.
Harris plays well: Competition is something the Cowboys like to promote within their locker room. The third receiver spot is up for grabs, but there are strong candidates. Harris showed up Saturday night with three catches for 118 yards and two scores. Kevin Ogletree finished with five catches for 75 yards, and Cole Beasley had three catches for 40 yards. Harris seems like a strong candidate to make the roster because he gives the Cowboys position flexibility. He can return punts and of course play receiver.
"Big Three" returns: The defensive "Big Three" of Ratliff, Spencer and Hatcher -- who were injured and missed the first two preseason games -- returned and played well. Spencer had three tackles, and Ratliff and Hatcher had one each. Hatcher, however, had a tackle for loss, and Ratliff nearly had one.
Claiborne gets a pass breakup: In his second preseason game, first-round pick Morris Claiborne picked up his first breakup on a pass into the end zone. Claiborne has been playing pretty well in the preseason, but this was the first game where it seemed the opponent tried to target him more than three times. Claiborne did fine, especially with the pass breakup.
Cowboys history made with officials: With the NFL using replacement officials, line judge Shannon Eastin became the first woman to officiate a game in Cowboys history. Eastin has been a referee in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, which consists of schools from historically African-American colleges.
Who played well?: At first glance, Harris, of course, with his two touchdown receptions.
What's next?: The Cowboys have 87 players on their current roster and have to get down to 75 on Monday. It would appear the Cowboys place Caleb McSurdy and Donovan Kemp on injured reserve, unless they negotiate an injury settlement with Kemp. Kevin Kowalski could be placed on the physically unable to perform list and won't count against the 53-man roster. The Cowboys take on the Miami Dolphins on Wednesday at Cowboys Stadium to conclude the preseason.