ARLINGTON, Texas – The Cowboys' backups and roster longshots played the vast majority of Thursday night's preseason finale, but they didn't fare much better than their high-profile counterparts.
The Cowboys dropped to 0-4 for the preseason in a 27-3 loss to the Denver Broncos – a team also relying mainly on its backups and third-stringers. It wasn't a pretty affair for the limited number of players who did suit up, as the Broncos outgained the Cowboys, 357 to 165, on the night.
"Like any other team, it's all about getting into a rhythm," said Brandon Weeden. "Coming out now, converting first downs, not getting behind the chains, I think we have done that a little bit through these first four games. When you get into those third-and-long against a good defense, it's tough."
Weeden played the first half for the Cowboys, which was arguably his worst action of the preseason. He finished 6-of-12 for 75 yards with an interception.
This marks the fifth time in franchise history the team has gone winless in a preseason, along with the 1962, 1986, 1998 and 2000. The Cowboys finished with a losing record in all of those seasons except 1998, when they went 10-6 and won the division.
"I feel like we have made some progress, but at the same time, it's still a work in progress," said Brandon Carr. "We did some great things, but we still want to fight to stay consistent, we want to fight to stay relentless every time we step on the field. We are always going to harp on takeaways."
Carr was one of just a few starters who opened this fourth and final exhibition, along with Orlando Scandrick, Kyle Wilber and Ronal Leary. This night was more about auditioning contributors for bigger roles – current backups like Rolando McClain, Devin Street and Uche Nwaneri saw varying degrees of action -- and letting longshots fight over the final few roster spots.
With less than 48 hours until final roster cuts are due to the league, rookies like Terrance Mitchell, Ryan Smith and Dustin Vaughan, as well as fringe veterans like Laron Byrd and Jamar Newsome, got one last chance to earn a roster spot.
Byrd might have been the highlight of those performers, as he built on a strong performance last weekend in Miami with three receptions for 48 yards. Fellow fringe players Dartwan Bush and Kenneth Boatright stood out for their efforts in stopping the run and pressuring Denver backup quarterback Brock Osweiler.
Those efforts didn't connect too much, however. Osweiler went 9-of-13 for 190 yards, and he gashed the Cowboys' defense in a two-minute situation at the end of the first half to get Denver an end-of-half field goal.
They made too many big plays in that two minute situation, and we gave them points," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. "It was a good job keeping them out of the end zone, but you can't allow them to make big plays in that situation."
Four different Denver receivers – Cody Latimer, Isaiah Burse, Cameron Morrah and Andre Caldwell – all averaged more than 16 yards per reception.
The Cowboys' running back tandem of Phillip Tanner and D.J. Adams combined for 26 yards on 13 combined carries – an average of two yards per carry.