By Will Martin
The Baltimore Ravens had the distinction of being the last team to play the Dallas Cowboys in Texas Stadium on a cold December 20 night 2008.
Almost six years later the champions from 2000 and 2012 made a return to AT&T Stadium.
One week removed from a disappointing performance in San Diego we finally got to see Tony Romo take some snaps after a lengthy layoff from injury and a back surgery.
It was determined that Romo would only play the equivalent of 12-15 plays.
As it were the almost 78,000 in attendance got their money’s worth in the first quarter for watching #9 while a turnover and some shoddy special teams put the Ravens ahead and Dallas got close later.
By then it was too late.
Tony Romo went 4 for 5 passing for 80 yards in two series with the first team. 31 of those yards on a beautiful touchdown pass to Dez who posterized his defender to help the Dallas Cowboys tie the game at 7 after an earlier fumble of a handoff by Romo allowed Courtney Upshaw to ramble in for a touchdown and a quick 7-0 lead.
From where this reporter sat, it seemed like Tony was a little antsy/jittery about getting hit in his first game back from injury.
How about it Tony?
“It felt good. It felt good to play football and execute the way we’ve been as a unit. You want to win all these games, but we’re also trying to evaluate and see the young guys. It was good for a lot of people, we had a lot of reps.”
What about the back?
“I felt like I got hit enough. I didn’t think about it. I will have to look at the tape to see if I did or what kind. You just play and don’t think about it. You get hit or you may not, but you don’t think about it.”
As it were the Cowboys didn’t get a chance to enjoy or back in a good drive as the Ravens had a decisive answer and response to the Dez touchdown as Deonte Thompson proceeded to take all of 12 seconds to run back a kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown and a 14-7 lead.
Dallas had over 13:30 of ball possession in the first period yet they were trailing.
The lead fell to 14-10 as Dan Bailey would connect on a 53-yard field goal less than a minute into the second period.
The Ravens would proceed to to get the next 20 points as Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Joe Jacoby, and the first team played in the second quarter against the Dallas second team (the Ravens offense did not see the field in the 1st period) for a 27-10 halftime lead.
Brandon Weeden took over for a solid quarter plus going 10 for 19 for 129 yards. Caleb Hanie went 3 for 4 for a short spell while Dustin Vaughn-a sentimental favorite to get the third spot in the QB depth chart- also had a touchdown pass late going 3 for 7 passing.
DeMarco Murray had 34 yards on 8 carries while Josh Randle led Cowboys rushers with 41 yards on seven carries. Ryan Williams added another 36 on eight carries while the competition between Randle and Williams continues to be a fun one.
Joe Flacco had himself a 9 for 17 night for 113 yards and a touchdown amongst the Raven starters while the Cowboys defense allowed 195 yards passing and 151 rushing. Not good but not as bad as we saw in San Diego one week ago.
Caleb Haney would get the Cowboys rolling as the 3rd quarter came to an end with a 24 yard strike to James Hanna to cut the deficit to 34-17. It became 34-24 when Ryan Williams plunged for a score from three yards out.
The crowd went from being docile to semi vociferous when Jamar Newsome caught a 5-yard out pass from Dustin Vaughn to close the gap to 34-30. A two point conversion try failed with 4:35 left on the clock.
The Ravens then proceeded to take over on possession and ran out the clock while adding a field goal to the final score which was 37-30.
Special teams looked to be a sore spot this night. That mantra of ‘bend but don’t break’ was very evident in the second half but when the game was match between the scrubs Dallas held their own.
Dallas with the loss fell to 0-2 this preseason with a trip to Miami up next.
Barry Church provided an interesting take on the start of the game.
“That was the first time I ever got into a football game with the first quarter is almost over and the score was fourteen to seven. So we knew it was definitely kind of weird. That’s how it happens and we were able to battle as a defense and bring our team back.”
Despite the loss Jason Garrett was happy with a few things that he saw. What was that word Jerry used-Tangible fungibles?
Garrett had some thoughts on Tony Romo.
” I thought he looked good. Obviously the real blemish for that first offense was the fumble, the fumbled handoff that they returned for a touchdown. But I thought they overcame that stuff and kept battling, put a good drive together. I thought we ran it fairly well and I thought that first third down where he had to climb the pocket and deliver the ball to Dez…I thought that looked alot like Tony Romo. I think he felt comfortable out there.. I think he saw things well, moved around, progressed through his difficult reads. I just thought he handled himself well and he looked good.”
Dez Bryant was more to the point about his quarterback.
“Ballin! I don’t know what else to say. He came out and did what he had to do. He drove us down, got in the end zone and put up seven points and got out of the game.”
Dez also believes Romo is ready to start!
“Yes, I think the trainers are doing a great job. We all know what Tony can do. He is a huge competitor. He likes to win, so there’s no need for him to really be out here in the preseason because we need him in the long run. What he showed tonight was great and we all know what he can do!”
Take away that botched snap and 108 yard kickoff return there were some positives to take away from this Saturday night matchup.
As banged up and as shorthanded as this team appears to look defensively it might very well be the ability to play keep away with long sustainable drives with a solid running game that will salvage what many believe will be a long season and a short tenure for Jason Garrett.
Apparently Las Vegas also agrees with me.
In closing Dustin Vaughn’s biggest fan may be the owner Jerry Jones himself as for the hope of making this team.
“I’m particularly impressed with his feet. His feet are quicker than they ought to be for 6’5”. So I liked what I saw out there. Even on the next to last play he showed some quick feet. He has always got that arm. For pre-med guy, I thought that last play lacked something, but he’ll learn how to manage that. Still, I thought he showed something really good. And Brandon Weeden did well too!
Now that the Cowboys are back from Oxnard, you can expect more trips to Valley Ranch for interviews, practices, and press conferences. After Miami one final home game on August 28th with the Denver Broncos.
The fun shall commence on September 7 with the 49ers and Colin Kaepernick.
8/23 @Dolphins 6:00 p.m.