Observation Deck: Dallas Cowboys
August, 16, 2014
By Todd Archer | ESPNDallas.com
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo's first action since undergoing back surgery Dec. 27, 2013, has to be deemed a success -- and not just because he was able to make it through 16 snaps of action, including penalties, unscathed.
The Cowboys lost 37-30 to the Baltimore Ravens, but Romo completed four of his five passes for 80 yards in two series of work in the first quarter, including a 31-yard touchdown throw to Dez Bryant.
There was a fumble on a handoff exchange with DeMarco Murray that Courtney Upshaw returned 26 yards for a score on the first drive. Romo attempted to drag down the 272-pound Upshaw but was unsuccessful. The good news: The tackle didn't affect his repaired back.
On his first pass attempt, Romo moved effortlessly up the pocket to find Bryant for a 22-yard gain. On the second series, he bought time with a spin move as things broke down in front of him but James Hanna dropped the pass.
With his deep pass under scrutiny in camp, Romo perfectly floated a pass down the sideline to Bryant with the cornerback in good position. Bryant was able to leap at the goal line for the score as Dominique Franks stumbled.
Romo should see more action Aug. 23 against the Miami Dolphins. Typically, the starters play into the third quarter in the third preseason game.
Here are some other thoughts on the Cowboys' second preseason game of the year:
- The struggles of the defense have been well chronicled. The effort Saturday was much better among what was the first team. Determining the difference between a starting group and backups is difficult because of injuries and rotations. On the Ravens' first drive, the Cowboys had two pass deflections to force a punt. On the second drive, J.J. Wilcox broke up a pass to Steve Smith to force a field-goal attempt. Tyler Patmon broke up a third-down throw on the third series to force a punt. But the Ravens followed with scoring drives of 96, 37 and 67 yards.
- At least with their regulars on the field, the Cowboys attempted to commit to the run. Ten of the first 16 play calls were run. They opened up with runs on six of their first eight plays in the preseason opener against the San Diego Chargers but were more successful this time. Against the Ravens, Murray had two negative runs. Lance Dunbar had runs of 1 and minus-2 yards behind the first-team line. Murray carried eight times for 34 yards before his night ended.
- Clock management has not been one of Jason Garrett's strong points as a head coach. He was done in by poor execution by his offense late in the second quarter. After wisely allowing the clock to wind down to the two-minute warning after a minus-1 yard run, the offense could not execute a simple screen play to stop the clock. An alignment problem before the third-down snap forced a timeout and Brandon Weeden had a poor throw to stop the clock. The Ravens' first-team offense was able to kick a field goal to close the half with a 27-10 lead.
- Before the defense could see a down of action the Cowboys gave up 14 points with Upshaw's fumble recovery and Deonte Thompson's 108-yard kickoff return in which he was not touched. The longest kick return the Cowboys allowed last year was 45 yards. They allowed a punt return for a score in last year's preseason but did not allow a return for a touchdown in the regular season.