The Denver Broncos ensured the Dallas Cowboys finished the NFL preseason winless, beating them 27-3 during each squad's final exhibition game that became a battle of backups.
Fans who paid for the preseason finale may have been disappointed to see none of the star names suit up for even a series. Brock Osweiler made what Denver hopes will be his last start for a while, while former Cleveland Brown Brandon Weeden started under center for Dallas.
Denver's reserves made the most of it, collecting 357 offensive yards and three scores through the ground. Dallas, however, stalled with 165 yards and only a Dan Bailey field goal to show for it.
Late in the first quarter, Osweiler completed a 34-yard strike to Andre Caldwell. C.J. Anderson, auditioning for an enhanced role behind starting running back Montee Ball, punched his way into the end zone on a one-yard run. Fox 31's Raul Martinez liked what he saw.
Aside from the touchdown, Anderson made little of his starting opportunity, compiling 32 yards on four carries. Osweiler amassed 30 rushing yards of his own on two runs. At least he's got that over Peyton Manning. Right, Troy Renck of The Denver Post?
Undrafted rookie Kapri Bibbs continued Denver's fun with the run, scoring two insurance touchdowns despite finishing with just 16 yards on three carries. Those second-half scores gave the Broncos a cushy lead the Cowboys made little effort to erase.
As the veterans watched from the sidelines, rookie Cody Latimer seized the spotlight by turning an Osweiler screen into a 57-yard gain. If Wes Welker cannot come back from another concussion, the second-round wideout could figure prominently in Manning's offense that rewrote the record book last season.
ESPN's Jeff Legwold believes Latimer will at least make his mark near the goal line.
With Matt Prater suspended for the first four games of the season, the Broncos acquired kicker Brandon McManus from the New York Giants. While Denver's high-powered offense took the night off, McManus needed to prove capable of holding the fort down for a month upon Prater's return.
The rookie from Temple who lost the open competition in New York to veteran Josh Brown missed a 52-yard field goal during Denver's opening drive. As SB Nation's Mile High Report noted, he hadn't had any game experience before the long attempt.
If John Fox was wise, he would test the team's limits on fourth-down attempts during the season, especially now that he has an easy excuse to let arguably the game's greatest quarterback ever stay on the field.
Hardly instilling any confidence as the No. 2 quarterback in Big D, Weeden went 6-of-12 for 75 yards and an interception by Tony Carter. He at least finished on a strong note, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Drew Davison.
Third-stringer Dustin Vaughan was more accurate, completing 11 of 17 pass attempts, but he managed just 95 yards through the air, a mere 5.0 yards per attempt.
Former Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Ware returned to his old stomping grounds, but not in pads and a helmet. Dallas' all-time sack leader did not take any reps against his old club, yet he still was excited about his trip to Texas, per the Associated Press, via Yahoo Sports.
"I'll be looking forward to seeing some of my old teammates and just being in that stadium and still feeling like it's home," Ware said. "We are always going to have that relationship. It's not just a business thing. It's a friendship also."
After finishing last in total yards allowed last season, Dallas must find a way to improve its defense in Ware's absence. When Denver and Dallas met last season in a game that counted, the abysmal defense squandered a masterful performance by Tony Romo. He accumulated 506 passing yards and five touchdowns in a 51-48 loss that accentuated the depleted unit's woes.
Of course, because people struggle to grasp the team concept of football, we all know who will actually receive the blame for Thursday night's loss, and even defeat going forward.
Preseason results hardly coordinate with the real thing, but the Cowboys had a long-ranging list of concerns before going 0-4 in August. Their defense has offered no encouraging signs of improvement, and their offense is doomed if anything happens to their main nucleus of Romo, Dez Bryant, DeMarco Murray and Jason Witten.
Dallas will kick its season off against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday afternoon while Denver hosts the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night.