It had been a long week for the Dallas Cowboys after a sloppy pre-season loss at the hands of the San Diego Chargers. As if that wasn’t enough, the team made headlines on account of comments made by linebacker Bradie James. But aside from off-the-field remarks, the Cowboys did have something to prove in their pre-season “dress rehearsal.”
Perhaps the biggest story of the night was the apparent connection between quarterback Tony Romo and second year wide receiver Dez Bryant. The duo connected a total of five times for 67 of Romo’s 141 passing yards in the first half and all but took control of the second quarter.
With 11:03 to go in the first half of Saturday night’s pre-season game against the Minnesota Vikings, the Cowboys embarked on what was their most impressive drive of the exhibition season. It was a drive reminiscient of Cowboys passing attacks of old as Romo and Bryant seemed to be in sync with each other. In fact, by squinting hard enough, that nine on the back of Romo’s jersey resembled an eight and the ball rocketed over the middle into the waiting hands of 88 to ignite fond memories of mid-90’s Cowboy passing glory.
On the third play of the drive, on third down, Romo fired a bullet to his left that Bryant made a sensational sideline catch on to convert the first down. After a challenge from the Viking sideline, the play was upheld. Romo and Bryant teamed up again for their fourth connection of the night and an 11 yard gain to cross into enemy territory at the Minnesota 47. After a five yard gain from running back Felix Jones, (more on him later) the Romo-Bryant combo succeeded one final time for 16 yards to get the Cowboys within sniffing distance of the end zone.
The play had Bryant running a post pattern through the left side of the Viking secondary. With perfect timing, as the young wideout slipped through a seam in the purple jerseys, Romo put the ball right into his hands amidst three Minnesota defenders for another first down. A few plays later, Jones scampered into the end zone to increase the Cowboys’ lead to 17-7 after the PAT. However, Romo and Bryant were not the only stars of the evening for the Cowboys.
The Dallas ground game proved to be effective on the night for 117 rushing yards. Jones scored the lone offensive touchdown of the game for Dallas and finished with five carries for 20 yards along with three catches for 18 yards. In his first professional appearance, rookie DeMarco Murray, drafted out of Oklahoma, carried the ball seven times for 32 yards to lead all Dallas rushers. But despite the success of the offense, special teams provided the most memorable individual play of the game early in the second quarter.
With the Cowboys trailing 7-3, the defense had stopped the Minnesota offense at the Dallas 29 to set up a 47 yard field goal attempt for Ryan Longwell. But safety Gerald Sensabaugh broke through the line for the block, which spurted, bounced and rolled all the way back to the Minnesota 20, where cornerback Alan Ball scooped it up and raced into the end zone.
In all, there was plenty for Cowboy fans to cheer about. While the team did show a few areas for improving (deep ball pass defense, run defense to name a couple) it was an all-around good night for Dallas. The Cowboys will close out the pre-season on Thursday in Miami, FL against the Miami Dolphins.