Looking for a positive result from the Dallas Cowboys’ 17-7 loss in Denver on Friday night? No player suffered a major injury. They weren’t disfellowshipped.
On a wet, sad night for – and from – Football, the Cowboys picked up where they left off in 2021 in 2022: with an ugly, penalty-strewn loss.
10. BLAZING DEBUT? – zilch. Not in this preseason opener. If you know, you know. Like in 2005, when DeMarcus Ware forced two fumbles, had an interception and produced a sack in his first NFL game in Seattle. Or in 2016, when a fifth-round rookie named Dak Prescott showed stunning stance and accuracy when he went on 10-of-12 for 139 yards and two touchdowns at the LA Coliseum. None of this year’s Cowboys rookies — or any players at all — had a game worth remembering, much less praising.
9. FANTASY FOOTBALL – Fortunately, exhibitions are all about player evaluation via team results. Because this one simply continued a trend that the Cowboys were somber in preseason. While the Baltimore Ravens have been on an unfathomable 21-game winning streak in games that don’t matter, the Cowboys are now 6-15 for the last five Augusts and have lost their last six preseason games. Alarming? Not a bit. Remember they went 0-4 last summer and had a 12-5 record in the regular season. I remember recording an absolutely staggering 3-1 preseason for the Cowboys in 1989, only to watch them drop to 1-15.
8. TYLER’S PROBLEMS – First-round draft pick Tyler Smith struggled on his debut.
He bricked defenders in pass protection but was called on for two holding penalties in the running game. (One of the calls was questionable, the other obvious.) It’s the continuation of a troubling trend for Smith, who was tagged 16 times in 12 games at Tulsa last season.
7. CASE FOR KELVIN – Cornerback Kelvin Joseph has been waiting all summer to get back on the field after a tumultuous offseason during which he was questioned by Dallas police in connection with a car homicide outside a nightclub. He’ll have to wait at least another week for his positive plays to erase his negative off-field issues.
In the second quarter, Joseph was batted for a touchdown pass and then penalized for being flagged for offside on a Bronco’s missed field goal. Denver took advantage and made the second try for a 17-0 halftime lead.
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6. FLAG FOOTBALL – The referee in this game was Alex Kemp. ring a bell? He was also responsible for Dallas’ controversial loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the Wild Card Playoff game last January. Undoubtedly, the Cowboys are an undisciplined team that received the most penalties in the NFL last season. In that game, they were tagged a paltry 17 times for 129 yards. But maybe Kemp has a little to do with it. In consecutive games he refereed, the Cowboys were called out for 31 penalties for 218 yards. The two teams accumulated a whopping 25 penalties.
5. RANDOM RECIPIENT? – Cowboys have well-documented receiver questions with the departures of Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson and the injuries of Michael Gallup and James Washington. There have been suggestions that they should sign free agent Odell Beckham Jr. But another talented but problematic target is volunteering for a job. Last seen stripping on the field in New York.
4. NO. 1 AT NO. 2 – Cooper Rush proved himself last season by guiding the Cowboys to a key October win in Minnesota in place of an injured Prescott. As an incumbent with at least one skin on the wall, the backup quarterback job is up for grabs. And with Will Grier injured in that opener, Rush got almost three-fourths to secure his hold. But… did he? He went just 12 of 20 for 84 yards with a sack and an interception. In other words, the door is ajar for Grier.
3. SUPER MEMORY – On January 15, 1978, the Cowboys beat the Broncos 27-10 to win Super Bowl XII. Zero relevance to this game. And as disgusting as it was, this game was far more competitive than the last time these teams met at AT&T Stadium last November as Denver built a 30-0 lead. Just wanted to write some positive. To be fair, fourth-string quarterback Ben DiNucci deserves credit for delivering a strike on receiver Simi Fehoko for a 12-yard touchdown that eventually put the Cowboys on the board with 4:56 minutes remaining. Though we’re not really sure Dallas can count on the combination of DiNucci and Fehoko when it counts this season.
2. ICEING THE KICKER – The Cowboys’ offense was so pathetic that there were only two chances to solve the team’s kicking conundrum. In a steady rain, Lirim Hajrullahu hit a field goal wide to the right from 56 yards. Veteran Brett Maher, who is likely to take part in week one kicker, grabbed the extra point after Dallas’ lone touchdown.
1. FIRST HALF FOLLIES – Dallas’ awful first 30 minutes included a partially blocked Kahn, an interception, two passes knocked down at the line of scrimmage, a sack, a dropped pass from rookie Jalen Tolbert, two touchdown passes allowed, no points, just seven first downs and nine penalties—including two against Dante Fowler, who was replacing Randy Gregory, two against Smith, and one against Joseph just before halftime that gave the Broncos a field goal and a 17-0 lead. It was the cowboys’ ugliest sight in Denver since Tony Dorsett ended his Hall of Famer career with a carry for the Broncos in 1988.
Said an irate Mike McCarthy: “Not good enough football. We need to get better.”
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