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Dallas 23, Seattle 13: Dallas Overcomes Malaise in Win

Dan Bailey continues to be money. He made three field goals against the Seahawks and has now made 19 consecutive attempts.

On paper, the Cowboys put together what looks like a solid win over the Seahawks on Sunday. Dallas broke a 6-6 halftime tie by forcing three second-half interceptions and finally managing a couple of touchdowns.

The big positive: DeMarco Murray is for real. He had 22 carries for 139 yards. He should have had more chances to score, but he looked solid all game.

However, by the time the Cowboys started looking good in the second half, many fans had to have a hand over their eyes. Most of the performances other than Murray’s were tough to watch.

Dallas saved some its worst plays for the return game.

Example #1: Dez Bryant decided to field a punt at his own 6. He had to catch the ball while running backward and ended up losing 4 yards.

Example #2: Last play of the first quarter. Kevin Ogletree took a kickoff eight yards deep in the end zone and tried to run it out. He made it to the 12.

Example #3: After Dallas took a 6-3 in the second, Leon Washington muffed the catch on the kickoff return. He recovered the ball but would have been stopped at the Seattle 5. But Jesse Holley stupidly committed an unnecessary roughness penalty, which gave Seattle the ball at the 20.

Example #4: After Seattle cut the Dallas lead to 23-13, Ogletree watched the ball bounce in the middle of the end zone. The problem: that’s a live ball. Fortunately, the ball rolled out of the back of the end zone, but it was a dumb play nevertheless.

The Cowboys also continued to have red zone woes. They managed to get the ball inside the 5 on their opening drive of the game, but Seattle held. Dan Bailey continued his streak with a 20-yard field goal.

After Seattle tied it at 3, Dallas got the ball to the Seattle 2 in the second quarter thanks to a 22-yard run by DeMarco Murray. Jason Garrett decided to call two play-action passes instead of having Murray try to run the ball in. The result: 20-yard field goal by Dan Bailey.

Tony Romo threw a slant to Dez Bryant in the middle of the second quarter, and Bryant looked like he would score. He fumbled instead. And though it was clear he fumbled, Garrett challenged the call. Sigh.

Seattle tied the game. Halftime: Dallas 6, Seattle 6. It should have been 17-3.

But the Cowboys managed to wake up. Their first offensive drive of the second half resulted in a touchdown from Romo to Jason Witten.

Then Jason Hatcher caught an interception off an odd deflection and returned the ball to the Seattle 40. That led to a six-play drive that resulted in another touchdown, this time from Romo to Laurent Robinson.

Terence Newman picked off Tarvaris Jackson on the next drive, leading to another field goal by Bailey.

With the Cowboys leading 23-6, some odd tension emerged, though. Brad Sham said on the radio that those three points could be critical, which was odd given that Dallas led by 17 with 11:22 left, has the self-professed best defensive coordinator in the league, and had not allowed a touchdown all game.

So, of course, Seattle marched 70 yards and scored its first touchdown of the game. Fortunately for Dallas, the drive took a total of five minutes. By the time Dallas punted on the next drive, just over two minutes were left.

The Seahawks put together a late drive, but Gerald Sensabaugh got his second pick of the year to end the drive and the game.

Dallas improves to 4-4 and will face Buffalo next week. The Bills struggled against the Jets today in a 27-11 loss.

Dallas 34, St. Louis 7: Run, Run, Run, You Rookie

No Dallas runner in history has had a better day than DeMarco Murray did against St. Louis.

The Cowboys faced a decimated St. Louis secondary this afternoon at Cowboys Stadium, so most thought that Tony Romo would torch the Rams through the air. Any running game that the combination of DeMarco Murray and Tashard Choice could produce would be nice as well.

As it turns out, Romo did not even need 200 passing yards in a 34-7 rout. Murray, on the other hand, will see his name in the team’s record books, where it will probably remain for a long time to come.

With the Cowboys facing a 1st and 19 on their own 9 early in the game, Romo handed to Murray on a lead draw. The rookie made two Rams miss, and by the end of the 91-yard scamper, the only player close to him was receiver Dez Bryant. The run was the second longest in team history, trailing only Tony Dorsett’s 99-yarder against the Vikings in 1982.

Dallas later took advantage of a St. Louis fumble late in the first quarter. The recovery set up a drive that led to a touchdown pass from Romo to Jason Witten.

The Cowboys briefly had trouble stopping Steven Jackson, who scored on the ensuing drive to cut the Dallas lead to 7. However, Mike Jenkins picked off starter A.J. Feeley later in the quarter, and the pick set up a Dallas field goal. Dallas led 17-7 at the half.

Murray got hot again to start the second half. His 19-yard run moved the ball to the Dallas 45. However, Choice fumbled on the next play, giving the Rams the ball in Dallas territory. St. Louis, though, went three and out, and the Cowboys gave the ball to Murray in heavy doses. After getting the ball at its own 12, Dallas moved to the St. Louis 33. Dan Bailey’s 51-yard field goal increased the lead to 20-7.

Murray continued to impress in the fourth quarter. His 43-yard run early in the quarter moved the ball into St. Louis territory. Jason Garrett turned to another rookie, Philip Tanner, who had a 17-yard gain to move the ball to the Ram 6, followed by a hard six-yard touchdown run.

An eight-yard run later in the fourth quarter gave Murray enough yards to break Emmitt Smith’s all-time single-game record of 237 yards, set in 1993 against the Eagles. Later in the same drive, Bryant made a nice catch in the end zone for the final score of the game.

The Cowboys finished the game with 294 rushing yards. That marks the fourth highest regular-season total in team history. Dallas averaged 8.6 yards per carry on 34 attempts, which is the second-highest average for a single game in team history.

New England 20, Dallas 16: 57 Minutes of Great Defense

Jay Ratliff and the defense gave Tom Brady trouble, up until the last 150 seconds of the game.

With the Cowboys leading 16-13 with two and a half minutes left in the game, the Cowboys punted the ball to the Patriots. Up to that point, Tom Brady looked very human. He had completed 19 of 32 for 211 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.

Dallas had no answer for Brady on the final drive.

16 to Aaron Hernandez

11 to Rob Gronkowski

5 to Wes Welker

10 to Wes Welker

9 to Danny Woodhead

Incomplete pass

A third-down QB sneak by Brady

13 to Woodhead

6 to Welker

8 to Hernandez in the middle of the end zone. Touchdown. Game over.

 

None of the Patriot weapons hurt the Cowboys badly all game until that final drive. Maybe it was a moral victory for Dallas. But it was certainly the Cowboys’ third loss of the season, with each of those losses coming in winnable games.

At least Tony Romo didn’t lose this game. His biggest mistake came early in the game when he misfired on a throw to either Miles Austin or Dez Bryant and instead found New England corner Kyle Arrington. That gave the ball to the Patriots in Dallas territory, but the Patriots were not able to convert the turnover into a touchdown. A field goal gave New England a 3-0 lead.

Dallas had some early opportunities. One of Brady’s interceptions in the first quarter led to a Dallas field goal. The Cowboys forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff return, but Tashard Choice fumbled five plays later.

Dallas struggled for a while after the Choice fumble, and the Patriots increased their lead to 13-3. However, Dallas managed a drive in the last five minutes of the second quarter, and Romo’s touchdown to Jason Witten cut the Patriot lead to 13-10.

New England had to punt on one drive. After Dallas tied the game at 13 following a long drive in the third quarter, the Patriots moved the ball into Dallas territory. However, Bradie James stripped the ball from Hernandez after a short gain, and Terence Newman recovered.

The Patriots held the Cowboys, but when New England drove to the Dallas 33, Victor Butler hit Brady’s arm, and Sean Lee caught the pick after another deflection.

The Dallas offense answered by driving 60 yards on 10 plays. However, the Cowboys could not punch the ball in and settled for a field goal. Dallas then led 16-13.

The Cowboys defense had a great drive, forcing a three-and-out. Dallas got the ball back with 3:36 at the Cowboy 28.

Jason Garrett didn’t give Romo a chance to play the goat, calling runs on first and second down. Felix Jones was not on the field because of an ankle injury, and DeMarco Murray was not able to gain positive yardage. Though the Cowboys forced New England to take two time outs, New England still had 2:31 left after the Dallas punt.

At 2-3, Dallas has sole possession of third place in the NFC East. Washington lost to the Eagles today, while the Giants beat the Bills. New York leads the division with a 4-2 record, while Washington falls to second with a 3-2 mark. Philadelphia is a half-game behind Dallas at 2-4.

Detroit 34, Dallas 30: Romo Trades in His Hero Status, Possibly for Good

Holding a 27-3 lead at the time, Tony Romo explains his strategy for keeping the Lions undefeated. Ready…Break!

Tony Romo’s performance in two consecutive games while playing with injuries helped most forget the dreadful performance at the end of the week 1 loss to the Jets.

What Romo did against the Lions will also make us forget the Jets game because this one was so much worse. The Cowboys entrusted Romo to take care of a 27-3 lead, and he promptly threw two interceptions that the Lions returned for scores to cut the Dallas lead to 27-17.

Yes, it’s true that Romo played a big role in the team getting the lead, but what he did in throwing those picks erased any good will he earned from such a good first half. In fact, it’s going to be tough for even the most positive of fans to have faith in Romo again.

Dallas had the big lead thanks to a great first half. Gerald Sensabaugh, who later left the game with an injury, picked off a pass on Detroit’s opening drive. Dallas moved the ball easily from that point, and Romo’s 25-yard touchdown pass to Dez Bryant along the right sideline gave the Cowboys a 7-0 lead.

Dallas had a chance to go up even further after driving to the Detroit 1. But on fourth down, Felix Jones was stuffed as the Lions shut the drive down.

The Cowboys didn’t fold at that point, though. Early in the second quarter, Romo drove inside the 10 once again thanks to Romo’s 44-yard pass to Laurent Robinson. Romo hit Bryant again, increasing the lead to 14-0.

Dan Bailey kicked two field goals from there, giving Dallas a 20-3 lead.

The Cowboys got great field position to open the second half when defensive lineman Sean Lissemore returned a short kickoff into Detroit territory. Six plays later, Romo found Jason Witten in the back of the end zone, giving Dallas a 27-3 lead.

The Dallas defense made a stop, giving the ball back to the Cowboys’ offense.

Dear Jason Garrett: Your team is leading by 24 with 10:30 left in the third quarter. The last thing you need is for Romo to try to force a pass to someone. Got it?

On first down, Romo tried to force a pass into double coverage. Bobby Carpenter (yes, that Bobby Carpenter) picked off the pass and returned it 34 yards for a touchdown.

Dallas 27, Detroit 10.

Dallas controlled the ball on the next drive, mixing runs with short passes. Then Romo tried to thread the needle and hit Robinson on a slant. Chris Houston stepped in front of the ball at the Detroit 44 and ran down the right sideline for yet another touchdown.

Dallas 27, Detroit 17.

The Cowboys drove on the next drive for a field goal to increase the lead to 13, but the Lions still had all the momentum. The 13-point lead only lasted about 80 seconds into the fourth quarter. Matthew Stafford’s touchdown to Calvin Johnson cut the Dallas lead to 30-24.

Dear Tony Romo: You put your team into this mess, so it would be nice for you to lead a drive that would get the team out of this mess. Got it?

Ahem.

Dallas went three-and-out twice in a row. The Dallas defense held once, but on a later drive by the Lions, Jason Hanson nailed a 51-yard field goal to cut the Dallas lead to 30-27.

When nobody expects much from Romo, he can be a hero. When he absolutely has to be a hero, he…

…throws the ball off his back foot. Witten might have been open over the middle, but linebacker Stephen Tulloch was in position to pick off the underthrown pass.

The Dallas defense slowed the Lions, but at that point, it was just a matter of time. Frank Walker was called for holding on a third-down play in the end zone, giving the Lions and first and goal from the 2. Dallas had Terence Newman line up in single coverage on Johnson, and it wasn’t a contest.

Dallas had a chance to get into position to throw a couple of passes into the end zone, but the team couldn’t even get that far.

Dallas 18, Washington 16: A Gritty, Field-Goal-Kicking Machine

Tony Romo was a hero for a second consecutive week. Center Phil Costa was something else.

The Cowboys’ win over Washington had a bunch of subplots, and many of them didn’t reflect positively on young Dallas players.

Center Phil Costa earned the nickname “Cost Ya” with his snapping in the shotgun. On four occasions, Costa snapped the ball before Tony Romo was ready, and it was a minor miracle that Dallas never lost the ball on any of those snaps. The stat line shows that Costa was credited with three fumbles.

Left tackle Doug Free struggled with Brian Orakpo and was called for two holding penalties. Right tackle Tyron Smith wasn’t much better.

Martellus Bennett continued his streak of underachievement by failing to haul in a touchdown pass and getting called for holding on a long run by Felix Jones.

Kevin Ogletree fumbled the ball in the first quarter, setting up a Washington field goal. He also ran the wrong route on at least two other plays.

But this Dallas team has shown that it is as gritty as it is young. Romo has rebounded from his problems against the Jets in week 1 to lead Dallas to two late wins in a row. And while most have focused on Romo playing through injuries, he has also appeared to be more vocal on the field. Costa’s ears might end up hurting as bad as Romo’s ribs.

In the end, rookie kicker Dan Bailey hit six field goals, and most were perfect. The defense came up huge at the end, as Anthony Spencer stripped Rex Grossman on a sack, and linebacker Sean Lee picked up the ball to secure an 18-16 Dallas win.

Lee continues to show why he might be the next great linebacker in team history. In addition to his final fumble recovery, he picked off a pass early in the second quarter to set up a field goal. He had a total of eight tackles.

Felix Jones had some big second-half runs and finished with 115 yards on just 14 carries. He also added 40 receiving yards.

Neither team played well in the red zone in the first half and had to settle for three field goals a piece. The ESPN broadcast showed that this was only the second time in NFL history that two teams had been tied 9-9 at the half with three field goals for each team.

Dallas took the ball early in the third and moved the ball near midfield. But on third-and-long, the Redskins blitzed, and Romo threw the ball to a spot where Ogletree should have been. However, Ogletree ran upfield, and Washington’s Kevin Barnes intercepted.

Washington then began a nine-play drive that resulted in a touchdown from Rex Grossman to Tim Hightower.

From there, Dallas chipped away at the lead. A 29-yard run by Jones helped to move the ball into Washington territory near the end of the third quarter, and Bailey eventually made a field goal.

The Dallas defense did not let Washington score again. The Cowboys stopped the Redskins on two straight possessions, and after the second, Dallas drove down field again to hit another field goal with about seven minutes left. Free-agent acquisition Laurent Robinson had a 25-yard catch-and-run that moved the ball into the red zone.

Washington drove into Dallas territory with a 16-15 lead, but DeMarcus Ware recorded a sack the pushed the Redskins back. Washington punted, giving Dallas the ball at its own 14.

Ogletree game up big when it mattered, catching a 20-yard pass that moved the ball to the Dallas 41. On the next play, though, Costa snapped the ball too soon yet again, resulting in an 11-yard loss.

With the Cowboys facing a 3rd-and-21 at their own 30, Romo was hurried from the pocket. He rolled right before letting the ball go. On the receiving end was Dez Bryant, who caught the ball and made the first down. DeAngelo Hall might have confused Bryant’s facemask for Romo’s ribs, and the 15-yard penalty on Hall put the Cowboys in field goal range. Dallas could only run the clock down to 1:52 before Bailey hit his sixth field goal.

The Redskins moved the ball to the their own 43, but with 38 seconds left, Ware bull-rushed up the middle, forcing Grossman to roll left. Spencer came from the left end spot and chased Grossman down. Spencer stripped the ball, and Lee came up with the recovery.

Dallas 27, San Francisco 24 (OT): Atonement at Candlestick

Jesse Holley tries to race away from Donte Whitner on a 77-yard pass play in overtime.

This is going to take a heck of a lot of research to confirm, but I am not sure how many games can match the number of players who atoned for mistakes in the same game to lead the Cowboys to a win.

Dan Bailey missed a 21-yard field goal on the opening drive of the game, and the team trailed by three late in the game. He got the chance to tie the game at the end of regulation, and he nailed a 48-yarder to send the game to overtime. He then hit another chip shot attempt to give Dallas the 27-24 win.

Alan Ball had trouble with a bunch of backup receivers who kept making third-down plays. But in the third quarter, Alex Smith apparently miscommunicated with tight end Vernon Davis, and Ball picked off Smith’s pass attempt. The interception led to a game-tying touchdown from Jon Kitna to Miles Austin.

Kitna was in the game when Tony Romo went down with a fractured rib. Romo had trouble completing a pass for much of the first half, and though Kitna threw a pick early in the third quarter, his touchdown pass to Austin tied the game.

Few were cheering when Romo insisted on going back in the game, and he did not look good when he did. However, when Kitna threw his second interception off a tipped pass—which led to the third San Francisco touchdown of the game—Romo was indeed back in there.

The 49ers increased their lead to 24-14 with just over 11 minutes left, but then Romo caught fire. He led the team 80 yards on the next possession and cut the 49er lead to 24-21 on a touchdown pass to Austin, who overcame a hamstring issue to have a huge game (9 rec., 143 yds., 3 TD).

The defense notoriously gave up long drives in 2010, but when Dallas needed a stop, the defense made a stop. A DeMarcus Ware sack backed San Francisco up, and the 49ers eventually had to punt.

From there, Romo made a hero of Jesse Holley, who until today had never caught an NFL pass. He grabbed two passes on the drive the led to the tying field goal.

Ware, Romo, and Holley continued their heroics in overtime. The 49ers moved the ball to their own 39 in overtime, which was a concern because David Akers had kicked a 55-yarder earlier in the game. However, on a 2nd-and-2 play, Ware stayed with Frank Gore coming out of the backfield, taking Smith’s safety valve out of the play. Jay Ratliff sacked Smith, and the 49ers could not convert on third and long.

Romo wasted no time after Dallas got the ball on its own 22. Holley later said that Romo changed the call from the sideline, and the play that Romo called had Holley hitting a seam after a play fake. Holley caught the ball in stride and should have scored on what was a 77-yard catch and run.

Jason Garrett immediately had Bailey attempt a 19-yarder, and the kick gave Dallas the emotional win.

* * *

Felix Jones injured his shoulder early and apparently suffered other injuries as well. He only managed 25 yards on nine attempts. The team as a whole only rushed for 45 yards.

* * *

Holley was four yards short of 100. He would have joined Austin and Jason Witten in the century club with those four more yards.

Holley has a few things to learn, though. He admitted in an interview after the game that he was watching the scoreboard rather than the end zone and that he planned to dive across the goal line.  Given that Dallas turned the ball over so close to the end zone last week, it was a bad idea.

* * *

Sean Lee had another huge game with eight tackles and two assists. It was rare not to see #50 near the ball.

* * *

Four of David Buehler’s five kickoffs went into the end zone and were downed for touchbacks. The other one in the third quarter was bad news. Kendall Hunter took the ball at the 8 and ran it back 43 yards into Dallas territory. Although the 49ers punted, San Francisco was able to pin Dallas deep. Kitna threw an interception on the next drive, leading to the go-ahead touchdown.

Cowboys Trail 49ers at the Half

Ugly first half for the Cowboys. Dan Bailey missed a 21-yard field goal, and Alan Ball cannot cover anyone. Dallas got lucky on a long TD from Tony Romo to Miles Austin.

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N.Y. Jets 27, Dallas 24: Romo, Among Others, Taketh Away

Tony Romo threw for more than 300 yards, but his two turnovers were very costly.

As far as dejected looks go, few NFL quarterbacks can match Tony Romo’s.

We got to see it when Romo threw his first interception of the season, coming with 59 seconds left in a game that was tied at 24. Romo tried to hit Dez Bryant, who was suffering from cramps and who barely turned around to try to catch it. Darrelle Revis picked off the pass and returned it into Dallas territory. The play set up what turned out to be the game-winning field goal by former Cowboy Nick Folk.

The game marked the first time in team history that Dallas had lost a game that it led by at least 14 points in the fourth quarter. Al Michaels called the Jets’ win “improbable.”

We’ve seen losses that felt very much like this one, though. The opening-day loss to Washington last year comes to mind, but there are plenty of others. This one was supposed to be a statement game. That statement—the Cowboys still don’t know how to win.

For three quarters, this was a beautiful game from the Dallas perspective. The Cowboys opened by driving 74 yards. Bryant caught three passes, including a touchdown reception to give Dallas a 7-0 lead.

The offense had one more good drive in the first half, as Dallas moved to the Jet 16. That drive resulted in a field goal to increase the lead to 10-0.

The Jets managed to close the gap to three late in the first half, and it appeared that New York might take the momentum. But Dallas came out in the second half and drove to the Jet 36. From there, Romo threw the ball toward Miles Austin, who practically stole the ball from Antonio Cromartie and rolled into the end zone for a touchdown.

The Jets cut the Dallas lead to 17-10 after the next drive, and then the Jets held the Cowboys.

When New York got the ball back, Sanchez went to work by hitting Plaxico Burress. However, on the next play, Sean Lee dropped into coverage and made a great play on a pass over the middle. Lee returned the ball for what appeared to be a touchdown. Later review showed that he stepped out at the one, but Felix Jones scored early in the fourth quarter, giving Dallas a 24-10 lead.

The Jets took advantage of injuries to the Dallas secondary, which featured Alan Ball and Bryan McCann. New York marched on an 84-yard drive that took less than three minutes to play.

Dallas could have put the game away on the next drive. Romo found Witten on a deep slant, and Witten raced all the way to the Jet 3. Two plays only yielded one yard. On third down, Romo moved to his right and then tried to drive for a touchdown. He was stripped of the ball, though, and lost the fumble.

The Jets moved the ball to Dallas territory, but Danny McCray stripped Sanchez on a sack. Lee recovered the fumble, which gave Dallas the ball at the Jet 47. The Dallas offense, though, moved backwards thanks to two penalties.

Mat McBriar had dropped two punts inside the 20, but he didn’t get a chance. Joe McKnight split the line and blocked McBriar’s punt, and Mardy Gilyard took the ball 18 yards to score and tie the game at 24.

The Cowboys needed a hero. Nobody stepped up.

Dallas moved the ball 20 yards and faced a 2nd and 2 from the Dallas 40. Runs by Jones and Tashard Choice failed miserably, and Dallas had to punt.

The Cowboys defense did step up, making a key stop to force a punt. Dallas got the ball back at the Jet 41.

Then Romo did his magic. Bryant had not caught a pass since the opening drive, and he was obviously having trouble running his routes. Romo’s pass never had a chance to hit anyone other than Revis, who put the Jets in position to win.

Miami 17, Dallas 3: Even More Kicker Drama

Jason Garrett and Tony Sparano meet after the Dolphins beat the Cowboys 17-3 in the final preseason game.

The Cowboys ended their preseason on Thursday night with a boring 17-3 loss to the Miami Dolphins.

You wouldn’t know it from the score, but the Cowboys had a fine game on paper. Dallas outgained Miami 389-278. Starting QB Stephen McGee hit 21 of his 25 passes for 233 yards. This included 48 yards on a screen pass to DeMarco Murray in the first quarter. Dallas also only had one turnover (a McGee interception early in the game that led to nothing) and only five penalties.

However, both David Buehler and Dave Rayner missed field goal attempts from beyond 50 yards, and Rayner missed a 36-yarder from the dirt in the infield late in the game. Buehler gave the team its only points on a 20-yard attempt at the end of the first half. Dallas will have a kicker, but good luck guessing who it is.

Murray had more than a quarter of the team’s yardage, gaining 32 on the ground and another 64 in the air. Phillip Tanner added 28 on the ground. Owner Jerry Jones said during the game that Tanner had made the squad, which was good news.

Bad news was that after a good preseason and a good game against Miami, Raymond Radway appeared to suffer a broken ankle or leg. He was jumping up to catch a pass in the end zone but came down very awkwardly on it. He was on the field for several minutes and was carted off with his leg in an inflatable cast.

So that does it for preseason. The team will make its final roster cuts on Saturday.

Dallas 23, Minnesota 17: Cowboys Overcome Shaky Defense

Alan Ball returned a blocked punt for a touchdown in the second quarter.

For part of Saturday night’s game against the Vikings, the Cowboys offered a look from a year ago. That was, of course, the Year of Can’t Stop Anyone.

Minnesota’s first drive featured runs by Adrian Peterson for 4, 11, 7, 2, and 5 yards. Then receiver Bernard Berrian ran right past safety Gerald Sensabaugh, and though Abram Elam was in position to break up the long pass from Donovan McNabb, the ball went right over Elam’s hands and into Berrian’s arms for a 49-yard touchdown.

The Dallas starters on offense looked solid, though both first-quarter drives fell short of the end zone. Tony Romo completed 15 of 20 passes for 141 yards, with Dez Bryant catching five of those passes for 67 yards. The second Dallas drive led to a Dan Bailey field goal.

During the second quarter, Sensabaugh made two of the biggest defensive plays of the game. On the first, he leaped over the Minnesota center to block a field goal attempt, and corner Alan Ball picked up the loose ball and returned it for a touchdown to give Dallas the lead.

On the next Minnesota drive, the Vikings moved to the Dallas 30, but Jason Hatcher tipped a McNabb pass, and Sensabaugh made a shoestring catch to pick the pass off.

Felix Jones showed some skills near the goalline, taking this run in from five yards out.

The Sensabaugh pick led to an 11-play drive that went 77 yards. Romo completed six of eight passes, including two nice throws to Dez Bryant and another to Jesse Holley. From the Minnesota 5, Felix Jones found the end zone to extend the Dallas lead to 17-7.

The big news before the game was that the team kept Andre Gurode from playing for “business” reasons. Many believe that the Cowboys will now trade Gurode, while others think that the team is just protecting him. With Phil Costa injured, rookie Kevin Kowalski played the entire game at center.

Eleven different players had at least one rushing attempt for the Cowboys. DeMarco Murray saw his first preseason action and gained 31 yards on seven carries to lead the Cowboys. Phillip Tanner saw action in the fourth quarter and again looked strong, gaining 25 yards on five carries.

The team’s young receivers also looked good. Holley made three nice receptions for 52 yards, while Manuel Johnson and Kevin Ogletree had two receptions each. Raymond Radway also had a catch late in the game. Dwayne Harris did not have a catch, but he returned a punt in the fourth quarter and ran a reverse for 11 yards.

Bailey connected on both of his field-goal attempts, including a 40-yarder with just over a minute to play. That kick extended the Dallas lead to 23-17.  Shayne Graham hit on his only attempt.

Jay Ratliff returned to the field, as did Keith Brooking. The Dallas defense settled down after Minnesota’s first couple of drives (meaning after giving up 81 yards on the ground by Peterson). Other than Sensabaugh’s interception, the biggest defensive play came late in the first half. With the Vikings driving at midfield, Anthony Spencer came on a blitz and sacked McNabb for an 11-yard loss. Minnesota punted two plays later.

Tight end Martellus Bennett injured his ankle and may have suffered a high ankle sprain. However, losing him is hardly a meaningful loss. He dropped a pass that hit him square in the hands, and he finished the game without a reception.

Ball and Orlando Scandrick were also banged up, though they could have returned if necessary.

Dallas will close out its preseason schedule on Thursday against Miami.