Cowboys vs. Rams: Live Game Grades, Player Analysis for Dallas
The Dallas Cowboys and St. Louis Rams preseason matchup ended with Big D securing its second exhibition victory. Dallas looked impressive early on and kept St. Louis in check up until late in the contest, ultimately winning the game by a score of 20-19.
Both teams will head into their final preseason contests next week, looking to iron out the last few problems before the games start to count.
Let's take a look at the Cowboys' final postgame grades and report card for each unit.
Due to the early end of Romo's night against St. Louis, his overall grade can only be based on his first quarter of play. For this reason, the Dallas starter earns an A grade for the night.
Thanks to the offense and Romo's hot start, No. 9 got a fairly early night off, with Kyle Orton taking over at quarterback at the beginning of the second quarter.
Quarterback Tony Romo tried to get tight end John Phillips involved in the offense early, targeting him three times and connecting once for 10 yards and a first down.
This chemistry would be wise for the two players to develop just in case starter Jason Witten's spleen injury acts up again during the regular season.
Romo's first quarter wasn't highlighted by his early passes to Phillips, however. His best moment came on a 61-yard TD bomb to Dwayne Harris on the team's second drive of the game. Much to the joy of Dallas fans, that play was just one of the great moments for the quarterback.
Romo posted 198 yards in the first quarter, with two touchdowns, completing nine out of 13 passes.
The most important part of Dallas' efforts on offense came in the first quarter when Romo and his first team players tore up the Rams defense.
Unfortunately, the team saw little success when the more-familiar faces checked out of the game.
Dallas' backups allowed the Rams an opportunity to tie the game late and looked far less impressive than the guys ahead of them on the depth chart.
Rudy Carpenter entered the game for Dallas to finish up quarterbacking duties, and he showed some legs on the first drive. Dallas' fourth QB of the night ran for a first down, only to see the play called back due to a holding penalty.
Overall though, Carpenter struggled in this outing. Three passes within his first two drives could have easily been intercepted—in fact, they probably would have been by St. Louis' first-team personnel.
With the rushing game again seeing little action, the grade for this quarter relies a lot on Carpenter's lackluster performance.
Stephen McGee entered the game to start the quarter, making his presence felt with a first-down throw to James Hanna. He commanded the offense decently, posting 52 yards on four completions on six attempts.
The running game was put on the back burner a bit here, but the Cowboys need to see what they have in McGee and whether he deserves a roster spot. No points for the unit doesn't help the quarterback's cause, but he could have looked worse.
With Romo leaving the game at the start of the second quarter, the Dallas offense went downhill.
Backup QB Kyle Orton came into the game, and was unable to generate anything on the first drive. The second possession was no more encouraging, as the unit went three and out, ending with a short pass to Phillip Tanner.
The third and final drive of the quarter started inside Dallas' five-yard line but made it all the way into Rams territory, leading to another Dan Bailey field goal. Orton provided some decent highlights, connecting with five different receivers on the possession.
The offense as a whole looked solid to start the contest, due in great part to the Rams struggles to contain running back DeMarco Murray.
In turn, the running attack opened up the passing game for Dallas.
The Cowboys were able to get 26 yards on the ground from Murray on five carries as well as two catches for 16 yards. Thanks to the running of Murray and Felix Jones, Romo found Dwayne Harris on two scoring strikes and threw for almost 200 yards in his brief stint.
The Cowboys defense was up and down for most of the night, following up a solid performance in one quarter with a less-than-stellar one the next.
The first-team players and some of the backups looked solid against their NFC West opponent, but there were a few trip ups along the way. Dallas struggled against a Rams running game that featured little from Steven Jackson, though it did fare well against all three of St. Louis' quarterbacks.
Clemens was able to get the Rams their first touchdown of the game to start the fourth quarter, but that should be taken with a grain of salt considering they were already in Dallas territory.
Adrian Hamilton would take Clemens down to start the second drive, ending the quarterback's night with a sack and a forced fumble.
St. Louis again couldn't get a whole lot going in the quarter until the final five minutes, but the Rams did add another touchdown to the scoreboard late and that can't be ignored. A solid outing for Dallas' D in this quarter, but by no means a great one.
When Kellen Clemens entered the contest for the Rams, the Cowboys defense noticed. Clemens was harassed from the get-go, receiving a sack and a hurry for his efforts on his first drive of the game.
The Cowboys did have trouble with Richardson, however, who has more than 50 yards against the defense through three quarters of action. Overall, with the Rams unable to put points on the board, there's no reason to not give this unit a high grade.
The Rams snagged another field goal against defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's crew early on, then St. Louis took it to the Dallas D on its second possession.
Sam Bradford looked more intimidating the second time around though, going deep into the red zone but ultimately failing to convert on fourth down.
Perhaps more degrading for Sean Lee and the defense is that almost all of the first unit was in the game when the Rams marched down the field on the legs of rookie running backs like Daryl Richardson.
Can't ask for a much better start to this game for Jay Ratliff and company as they forced a three-and-out from St. Louis and sacked young quarterback Sam Bradford to end the Rams' first offensive series.
The Cowboys did allow the Rams offense to get on the board in their second possession, but the special teams deserves most of the blame there.
The special teams unit didn't need to do much in this game, but all the field goals attempted were converted, as were the extra points.
There were a few plays by the kickoff coverage team that could have been better, but altogether this was a quiet yet effective night for this unit.
Same story, different quarter for the Cowboys special teams. The unit was not needed almost the entirety of the quarter, with no extra points or field goals to kick.
First play of the second half: a blatant facemask penalty against the Cowboys special teams. Not the start coach Garrett was looking for here.
Besides this play, the Dallas special teams unit didn't have much else to do this quarter and didn't mess up the other times it was called upon.
The special teams looked better in the second quarter, forcing a fumble by Rams receiver Danny Amendola on a punt that ended the Cowboys' second offensive possession. While the 'Boys were unable to recover, it's still a step up from letting St. Louis returners getting to their own 40-yard line.
That good feeling didn't last long, however, as Fisher decided to fool the 'Boys with a fake punt during his team's second possession, converting the first down.
The special teams did get one last chance to redeem themselves before the end of the quarter, though, as it added another field goal to Dallas' side of the scoreboard.
All looked good from the special teams unit up until the last seven or so minutes of this quarter when the kickoff coverage team gave up a long return from Rams' rookie rusher Isaiah Pead. Pead took the football all the way to the 40-yard line after Romo's first touchdown pass of the night.
That good field position led to three points for the Rams. To add insult to injury, running back Felix Jones took the ball on the Cowboys' kickoff return after St. Louis' score and only managed to reach his team's six-yard line.
Garrett knew what he wanted from his offense this game: to test his backup quarterbacks against the Rams defense while sprinkling in some reps to four Cowboy running backs.
The defense was able to get pressure on the Rams offense, penetrating the line on several occasions. The biggest thing Ryan and his unit will be surely working on in practice next week is reacting to running plays.
Too often the Rams were able to surprise this defense with rushing plays.
Garrett made sure the offense continued to focus on the passing game and Carpenter, with both the air and ground games looking stagnant to end the game.
The defensive play-calling saw some nice sacks and even some tough stands against the run, but the last long drive for the Rams did raise some concern. It just didn't seem like Dallas could adjust to what St. Louis was doing on its final drive.
Offensively, the Cowboys looked alright and gave the ball to McGee plenty. Garrett's staff was likely trying to see how its potential No. 3 QB would do against a Rams defense that struggled in the first half.
Defensively, Ryan heckled Clemens with his schemes and personnel but still proved to have problems with the Rams rushing attack.
Not as many points went on the board for Garrett's team this quarter, but the offense rebounded from a shaky start when Orton came into the game.
The defense and special teams play did fall off, however, which means Garrett needs to briefly meet with his coaches in both departments and figure out what went wrong.
Head coach Jason Garrett called a solid first quarter, resulting in 17 points for his offense and just three points by the competitor's offense.
The Cowboys lead heading into the second quarter, and all but the special teams players are playing exactly as Garrett could hope for in this third preseason game.