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With 31 seconds remaining in the Cowboys’ first preseason game against Denver, third-string quarterback Stephen McGee was dragged down for a sack and an eight-yard loss. The Cowboys trailed 23-16 and faced a fourth-and-goal from the 13.
On the fourth-down play, McGee lobbed a pass to the middle of the end zone, where rookie Dwayne Harris brought pass down for a touchdown. It cut the Denver lead to 23-22, and the Cowboys decided to go for two rather than settle for the tie. McGee gave Dallas the win when he rolled to his right and found fourth-year tight end Martin Rucker in the end zone.
The Cowboys first-and second-stringers did little to impress, but the younger players showed promise later in the game.
Harris was the most impressive, showing some serious speed. He took a short pass from McGee earlier in the fourth quarter and sprinted past everyone for a 76-yard touchdown.
Another promising rookie, Raymond Radway, also had a touchdown reception. However, he had some trouble on a few routes, and his touchdown reception was his only catch.
The most significant rookie was tackle Tyron Smith, who started at right tackle and played throughout the first half. He provided good protection for the most part, though it is hard to gauge his overall performance because the Denver starters were out after one series.
One big disappointment came in the running game. Lonyae Miller was suppose to challenge Tashard Choice for a roster spot, but Miller only managed 11 yards on 9 carries. Rookie Philip Tanner looked better, showing a burst and gaining 44 yards on 9 carries.
Defensively, Victor Butler was impressive throughout the first half. On one play, he took on a double team while rushing Denver QB Tim Tebow. Although Tebow broke through to scramble, Butler ran him down from behind. Butler also had a tackle for a loss and nearly had a sack.
The Dallas secondary has suffered through a number of injuries, and Denver had some success through the air. The Denver starters also had a relatively easy time running the ball against the Dallas starters. Denver opened the game with a 13-play drive, and Knowshon Moreno and Willis McGahee combined for 40 rushing yards on only six attempts. Denver had to settle for a field goal on its opening drive, though, giving the Broncos a 3-0 lead.
The Dallas starters answered by driving 56 yards. The biggest play was a screen pass from Tony Romo to Felix Jones that went for 16 yards. Dallas will apparently use its more athletic offensive line to feature more screen passes this season.
Denver led 9-3 at the half, as both Jon Kitna and McGee had trouble moving the Cowboys consistently. McGee gave Dallas a 10-9 lead in the third quarter by driving the team 64 yards, capped off by the touchdown pass to Radway.
Denver answered early in the fourth on a touchdown run by Jeremiah Johnson, but Harris’ long catch-and-run allowed Dallas to answer. However, long snapper Cory Adams’ snap was off-target on the extra point, and kicker Dan Bailey was unable to give the Cowboys a lead because the Cowboys had to abort the attempt.