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Broncs Overtake CowBoys 23-13 At Home

Photo: Dallas Cowboys running back Alonzo Coleman, left, is dragged down after a short gain by Denver Broncos linebacker Jordan Beck, center, and defensive tackle Alvin McKinley in the third quarter of the Broncos' 23-13 victory in an NFL exhibition football game in Denver on Saturday, Aug. 16, 2008. The second preseason game for Dallas wasn’t much better than the first, and worse in some ways.  The first-team offense and defense didn’t accomplish much, allowing Denver to score on their first two possessions while putting up a big goose egg on the scoreboard themselves.  Denver’s Jay Cutler shredded the Dallas secondary, mainly rookie CB Mike Jenkins, for two long passes and a TD pass to Branden Marshall on his first series for a quick 7-0 lead.

On Dallas’ first possession, Dallas moved the ball after a good kick return by Isaiah Stanback, but then costly penalties moved them back, namely a personal foul call on RT Marc Colombo and the drive ended after another penalty prevented a short 4th down chance leading to a punt.  Terrell Owens did make several short catches on the drive, but Romo missed him on a long crossing route when he was wide open.  Romo finished the day just 6-of-9 for 33 yards.

The special teams coverage was much improved, but the defense committed too many penalties to hold the Denver starters inside their own 5-yard line thanks to a questionable late-hit call on LB Bradie James that gave the Broncos a first-down outside the 20-yard line.  They then promptly drove the remainder of the field for a second TD, this time on a Selvin Young 1-yard rush to extend their lead to 14-0. 

Dallas’ second drive stalled just past mid-field on their next possession, again assisted by several miscues and penalties.  That would be the end of Romo, Owens and Barber’s game, as Brad Johnson, Felix Jones and the first-team OL continued for the rest of the first half.  Johnson looked much better than in San Diego, leading the Boys to a TD and FG before half to cut the lead to 14-10.  Unfortunately, his favorite target during the TD drive, WR Miles Austin, was injured on the kick-off following his TD reception from Johnson and missed the rest of the game.  It was later learned Austin suffered a sprained right knee.

One serious issue that came up in this game, unlike in SD, was injuries.  The opening kick-off saw injuries on both teams, but FB Deon Anderson, who got his bell rung on the play, would return to action.  Chris Canty then was injured on the first play by the Broncos and wouldn’t return to the game.  He was said to have a mild hip injury that wasn’t too serious but he was held out as a precautionary measure.  Several Cowboys players were already not going to see action due to injury, most notably Terrence Newman, still sufferring from a groin strain.  The list continued to grow as reserve LB Justin Rogers and FB Ronnie Cruz were injured in the third quarter.  Rogers had been performing well before he sprained his left shoulder making a tackle on the sidelines. 

After the game, Head Coach Wade Phillips took responsibility for the loss saying that his team “…played too vanilla against them.”  Dallas played their base defense for the majority of the game and didn’t use many blitz packages or pressure schemes to disrupt a crisp Jay Cutler.  In the meantime, Denver used a different offense than what they had been showing in practice during the week. 

QB Richard Bartel played well, coming close to a scoring drive, but WR Todd Lowder zigged when he should have zagged down by the goalline and Denver picked off his pass.  Bartel made a touchdown-saving shoestring tackle to prevent the Denver player from taking it all the way to the endzone, but it was the last significant threat posed by the Dallas offense in the game as the two teams traded FG’s in the fourth quarter.

Other players did get to see some action this week, such as Keon Lattimore, the younger brother of Ravens’ LB Ray Lewis, who has been featured on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” during training camp.  Also the aforementioned Lowder and TE Martellus Bennett made some plays during the game.  WR Danny Amendola didn’t do too much, he did have one reception and one punt return during the game, but nothing spectacular yet from the Tech speedster.

Penalties are again the story of the game, with Dallas committing 9 for 78 yards, most of them either drive-killers or drive-extenders against the defense.  There is definitely much work to be done before this team starts living up to its potential.

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