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Dallas 16, Cincinnati 7: Backup Linebackers Come Through

Tony Romo cheers on linebacker Brandon Sharpe, who scored in the fourth quarter on an interception return.

The Cowboys are situated well at the linebacker position, with DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer wreaking havoc on the outside and Keith Brooking and Bradie James providing leadership for the entire defense. Two backup linebackers, though, had the biggest highlights in Sunday night’s 16-7 win over the Bengals.

With the Cowboys leading 6-0 in the third quarter, Brandon Williams dropped back into coverage and picked off Jordan Palmer‘s pass. Williams returned the ball to the Cincinnati 9. Dallas could not punch it in, but David Buehler‘s third field goal gave the Cowboys a 9-0 lead.

Here’s a clip of the pick:

Early in the fourth quarter, with the lead still at 9-0, receiver Manuel Johnson saved a punt from going into the end zone, and the Cowboys downed the ball at the Cincinnati 1. Two plays later, linebacker Brandon Sharpe picked off Palmer and returned the ball six yard for the Cowboys’ only touchdown of the game.

Dallas took a 6-0 lead in the first half. The offensive starters drove the ball 63 yards on 14 plays.On first and goal from the 5, he appeared to be headed for a touchdown. He was stripped of the ball, though, and fumbled into the end zone. The Bengals were called for offsides, negating the play. Dallas was unable to punch it in from the 2 and had to settle for a field goal.

Jon Kitna played three series but could not lead the Cowboys to a score. Stephen McGee came in midway through the second quarter and drove the team 39 yards in eight plays to set up a second field goal.

McGee completed 12 of 22 passes for 116 yards. He was sacked four times, though, and at times appeared uneasy in the pocket. Romo completed 5 of 10 passes for 59 yards, while Kitna completed 4 of 7 for 56 yards.

Neither Marion Barber nor Felix Jones saw action after the first quarter. Tashard Choice led the team in rushing with 41 yards on 7 carries. Backup Herb Donaldson had 19 yards on 6 carries, but he didn’t help himself by fumbling in the second quarter.

Backup tight ends John Phillips and Scott Sicko combined for 9 receptions and 104 yards. Phillips looked especially good before leaving the game with a knee injury.

Doug Free looked solid, especially in pass protection against Antwan Odom. New arrival Alex Barron looked shaky, though.

The Cowboys have only  four days before they host the Oakland Raiders at Cowboys Stadium.

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