Dallas Cowboys: 2014 NFL Preseason Week 4 DAL at MIA

Ahmad Dixon doesn't apologize for big hit

August, 24, 2014
Aug 24
12:49
AM ET
MIAMI -- Ahmad Dixon built a reputation as a big hitter at Baylor. In his second game with the Dallas Cowboys, the rookie safety will be hearing from the NFL for a hit on a defenseless receiver.

Dixon popped Miami Dolphins wide receiver Matt Hazel near the goal line after a third-down pass fell incomplete. Four plays later the Dolphins had the game-winning touchdown.

“How do you pull up? It’s football,” Dixon said. “What are you supposed to do, just let the man catch the ball then go try to tackle him? Nah. What are we playing for? What is the point of having a defense? What’s the point of having on all these pads? You’re going to sit up here and say, ‘Oh, you can’t hit him, got to let him catch the ball. He’s defenseless.’ So what about those crack backs? That’s not an issue? It is what it is though.”

Coach Jason Garrett said he did not have a good view of the play but the NFL has cracked down on player safety in recent years.

“You want to be a smart football player,” Garrett said. “You want to be a guy we can trust. Just because you’re a guy who can make big, impact hits doesn’t mean we’re going to tolerate penalties. That’s not what we’re going to do. Hopefully he can learn from that situation and understand how they’re going to call the game at this level.”

Miami batters Romo, beats Cowboys

August, 23, 2014
Aug 23
11:20
PM ET
Tony RomoAP Photo/Lynne SladkyCowboys starter Tony Romo finished Saturday's game with a quarterback rating of just 68.5.

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- The Dallas Cowboys' offense we saw against the Miami Dolphins on Saturday night isn’t going to be nearly good enough during the regular season to offset their raggedy defense.

The offensive line, fortified with three first-round picks in the past four seasons, struggled against Miami’s defensive line.

In the process, the unit allowed Miami to hit quarterback Tony Romo way too often. The Dolphins sacked him three times -- and he played only a half.

Oh my.

Miami beat the Cowboys 25-20 at Sun Life Stadium, but Romo absorbed the beating Miami put on him. Even though the 34-year-old needed a trip to the cold tub immediately after the game, overall it remained a successful evening.

At least we found out Romo can take such a beating. Hey, that’s important when you consider that Romo has had two back surgeries in the past year, and that the club has been extremely cautious with him during training camp.

The Cowboys have consistently given Romo days off during training camp to ensure he has no issues with his back. Romo didn’t play in the first preseason game, and he played just 14 snaps in the second.

And it’s unlikely that he’ll play in Thursday's final preseason game against Denver. Baltimore jostled him a bit last weekend, but the Ravens didn’t pound him the way Miami did.

“It was good to see Tony out there playing,” Dallas coach Jason Garrett said. “He got knocked around a little bit, and that could be good and bad.

"You want the protection to be clean, but at the same time for him, in his preparation for [the Sept. 7 opener versus] San Francisco, it's good to have him feel the physical part of the game.”

[+] EnlargeTony Romo
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images"It's good to have him feel the physical part of the game," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said of quarterback Tony Romo, sacked three times Saturday.
The consistent pressure on Romo is the biggest reason the Cowboys couldn’t sustain drives Saturday, which is troubling since most of their offensive starters played the first half.

The Cowboys ran 32 plays in five series but managed only a pair of long field goals -- 52 and 50 yards -- from Dan Bailey. The Cowboys gained just 110 yards, an average of 3.4 per play.

Romo completed just 10 of 18 passes for 87 yards, with a long of 17. He finished with a passer rating of 68.5.

Yuck.

The Cowboys were 2-of-8 on third down under Romo. Twice, Miami sacked Romo on third down, ending a drive. Another time, Romo was hit hard as he delivered the ball, leading to an incompletion.

“I’ll be very candid with you, their defensive front was doing a pretty good job, and that concerned me,” owner Jerry Jones said. “He took those three sacks, and that concerned me. Not that we couldn’t correct what it takes to block them, but it concerned me that he was taking those sacks.”

At the end of the first half, the Cowboys had moved from their 20 to the Miami 24. On first-and-15, defensive end Cameron Wake sacked Romo for an 8-yard loss, thwarting the drive and setting up Bailey’s second field goal.

"We wanted to put more points on the board, but we hurt ourselves with penalties,” Romo said. “The game is always going to be hard if you keep putting yourself behind."

Here’s the deal: This team has no chance if its offense doesn’t play well. What you saw from the Cowboys’ defense against Miami is what you’re going to see all season. The unit is going to give up a ton of yards and hope it forces turnovers and makes teams kick field goals.

Any thoughts the Cowboys have of making the playoffs depends on them fielding a dynamic offense. And when you consider the plethora of playmakers Romo and playcaller Scott Linehan have at their disposal, there’s no reason Dallas shouldn’t have one of the league’s top offenses.

The best way for the Cowboys to win games is to use their offense to grab leads, then use the running game, led by DeMarco Murray and the offensive line, to protect the defense and close out games in the fourth quarter.

To do that, however, the offensive line can’t get manhandled the way it was by the Dolphins. This is the preseason, so there’s zero reason to overreact, although this is the last time we’ll see most of the team’s key starters before the season begins.

Romo would tell you that a tad better execution on a couple of plays and the offense would’ve looked just fine Saturday. Romo would also tell you he didn’t feel as though Miami overwhelmed the Cowboys’ offense, otherwise he’d be concerned.

Still, it’s clear the Cowboys have much work to do to get ready for San Francisco.

Garrett has spent all offseason talking about having an offensive line that will enable the Cowboys to play a more physical style. He’s said the line will make Romo better and the defense more efficient.

We didn’t see that against Miami. We'd better against San Francisco in two weeks.

Observation Deck: Dallas Cowboys

August, 23, 2014
Aug 23
10:21
PM ET

MIAMI -- After not getting hit in his 16 snaps of work during his preseason debut against the Baltimore Ravens last week, Tony Romo was sacked three times and hit once more in a half of work in the Dallas Cowboys' 25-20 loss to the Miami Dolphins on Saturday. It was a shaky performance by an offensive line that is supposed to be the strength of the team. Right tackle Doug Free struggled with Cameron Wake, who had two of the sacks. Olivier Vernon came from behind to drop Romo on the first sack, knocking the ball free, but the Cowboys recovered. Keeping the quarterback clean is a must for the Cowboys, considering Romo's back surgeries and age (34). He was sacked more than three times in just two of his 15 full games in 2013. In 32 first-half plays, Romo completed 10 of 18 passes for 87 yards. In his two preseason games, Romo completed 14 of 23 passes for 167 yards and a touchdown. Here are some other thoughts on the Cowboys' third preseason game of the year:
  • For all of the worry about the pass defense, the Cowboys' run defense has been abysmal in the preseason. In three games they have allowed 503 on the ground. Considering their lack playmakers on pass defense, the run defense has to at least make it hard for opposing offenses. Miami had 45 yards rushing on its first series of the game, settling for a field goal. They allowed 93 yards in the first half. In a division with LeSean McCoy and Alfred Morris, the Cowboys must be tighter against the run.
  • Cornerback Brandon Carr played 17 snaps in his first preseason action, making a good third-down tackle on Lamar Miller on the first series. He gave up a 14-yard catch to Mike Wallace before his night ended after the first quarter. Orlando Scandrick played only outside cornerback, which allowed Sterling Moore to work the slot. With Scandrick to miss the first four games because of a suspension, Moore will need all the work he can get inside. Morris Claiborne did not play because of a shoulder injury but could see some action in the preseason finale against the Denver Broncos on Thursday.
  • The Cowboys continue to search for their linebacker trio. Rookie Anthony Hitchens was the first-team middle linebacker on base defense. Rolando McClain took over in the second quarter. With Hitchens on the field, Justin Durant moved to the weak side and Bruce Carter played the strong side. In the second quarter, Hitchens and Carter were the linebackers in the nickel defense and Durant went to the sideline.
  • Tyler Patmon earned an invite to Cowboys' training camp after a strong showing in the rookie minicamp. He might have earned a spot on the Cowboys' 53-man roster Saturday. Patmon had two interceptions and forced a fumble. Taking over for Carr in the second quarter, Patmon poked the ball free from Dion Sims that Barry Church recovered. He picked off Dolphins' starter Ryan Tannehill on the first drive of the third quarter. He might have solidified his spot with a 9-yard interception return for a touchdown of Matt Moore in the fourth quarter.
  • The Cowboys close the preseason Thursday against the Denver Broncos at AT&T Stadium.

Romo 'knocked around' in first half

August, 23, 2014
Aug 23
9:26
PM ET
MIAMI -- Tony Romo’s preseason ended Saturday with one half of action against the Miami Dolphins in which he completed 10 of 18 passes for 87 yards. He was also sacked three times and hit once more.

The good news was Romo’s surgically-repaired back appeared to withstand the battering he took.

Romo
"It was good to see Tony out there playing,” coach Jason Garrett said at halftime. “He got knocked around a little bit, and that could be good and bad. You want the protection to be clean, but at the same time for him, in his preparation for San Francisco, it's good to have him feel the physical part of the game.”

Romo was sacked more than three times in a game last season just twice. Cameron Wake had two sacks. Olivier Vernon had the first, forcing a fumble that the Cowboys recovered.

The Cowboys’ first-team offense had to settle for two Dan Bailey field goals. After an 11-yard pickup by Cole Beasley moved the ball to the Miami 19 on the Cowboys’ final possession of the half, the Cowboys had an illegal shift penalty and sack that eventually forced Bailey to make a 50-yarder.

"It felt good to get through a half,” Romo said. “We want to put more points on the board, but we hurt ourselves with penalties. The game is always going to be hard if you keep putting yourself behind.”

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