The Dallas Cowboys defeated the St. Louis Rams last night at Cowboys Stadium 20-19 in the first team’s final dress rehearsal before the opener against the New York Giants on September 5th. The first team offense, with Tony Romo in charge, put up 17 of the 20 points in the first quarter. Romo was 9 of 13 for 198 yards and two touchdowns. Romo then gave way to back-up quarterback Kyle Orton who was 9 of 12 for 99 yards.
Neither of the potential third string quarterbacks – Stephen McGee and Rudy Carpenter, did much to help their cause during the game. McGee was 4 of 6 for 52 yards, and Carpenter failed to complete a pass in five attempts. The offense stalled with the starters out, and St. Louis actually outgained the Cowboys 438 to 294 yards.
Wide receiver Dwayne Harris made a statement however, snagging three passes for 118 yards, two of them for touchdowns. Kevin Ogletree had five catches for 75 yards (although he had one pass go through his hands), and rookie Cole Beasley had 3 catches for 40 yards.
The first team offensive line, that included Nate Livings for the first time, still struggled. The line had protection problems up the middle, and there were some missed blocks in both the running and passing games.
The Cowboys will welcome Phil Costa back at center this week however, and Costa will probably make his first appearance in the final preseason game against the Miami Dolphins. But there isn’t much time left for Costa and his offensive line teammates to build the cohesion necessary to handle the Giants ferocious pass rush.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Cowboys first team allowed only two field goals in the first half and 105 total rushing yards. However, the Cowboys did lose nose tackle Jay Ratliff for four to six weeks with a high ankle sprain. With Ratliff out, the Cowboys will have to rely on third year man Josh Brent, and perhaps even Marcus Spears who has played a few snaps at nose tackle, to plug up the middle of the line.
The Cowboys looked good with Romo at the helm – even with breakdowns in the offensive line and back-ups starting at wide receiver and tight end. But the Giants will present more challenges to the line, Romo and the receivers.
The defense continues to perform at a high level. But the injury to Ratliff and the inexperience of rookie Morris Claiborne at cornerback could provide Eli Manning and the Giants just the advantages they need to make the Cowboys record 0-1 after the season opener.