ARLINGTON, Texas – The bulk of the plays in the Cowboys' 37-30 loss to Baltimore on Saturday didn't involve Tony Romo – but the 16 snaps he did play looked encouraging for his longterm health.
The Cowboys' franchise quarterback, easing his way into the preseason after December back surgery, did everything asked of him. He led the Cowboys on two drives in the first half, completing 4-of-5 passes for 80 yards.
He escaped pressure on two separate occasions, showcasing the maneuverability he has become famous for. Romo even threw downfield, as he connected with Dez Bryant on a 31-yard touchdown strike.
"I thought he looked comfortable. I thought he looked like himself and moved around in the pocket," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. "He made some good throws that looked like he saw the field well. He felt the pocket really well and looked comfortable moving the team."
The limited reps showed off Romo's progress in offseason rehab -- though the signs weren't quite as positive for the Cowboys from a performance standpoint.
After all, it was Romo and Pro Bowl running back DeMarco Murray who botched a handoff, leading to an easy scoop-and-score for Baltimore linebacker Courtney Upshaw.
"We have to look at it. We have to find it on the tape," Romo said during the second quarter. "That's stuff that can't happen, obviously, but we will get that corrected."
The Baltimore Ravens meet the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX.
In front of them, the Cowboys' vaunted offensive line, which let all five starters play into the second quarter, drew two holding penalties in the first six plays of the game. The special teams coverage, which was so dependable in 2013, allowed a Baltimore kick return touchdown midway through the first quarter.
All told, the Cowboys' top offensive and special teams units helped the Ravens to a 14-7 lead before their defense could take the field.
"Those two plays put us behind the eight-ball, but there were some good things besides that," Garrett said. "We still need to get better in all the different areas, and do the things a winning team does"
Once the defense did find its way to the field, the results were far more encouraging than last week's first half against San Diego – for the most part, at least. The Cowboys' first-team unit limited Baltimore to 45 yards on 13 plays in their first three possessions.
The Ravens added a 96-yard touchdown drive and another field goal after the Cowboys' second-teamers began to filter onto the field. Notable in that stretch was a roughing the passer flag on George Selvie, which allowed the Ravens to continue their touchdown drive.
"We are definitely doing a lot better than last week, but we still gave up a couple of explosive plays. It is still an improvement from last week," said Cowboys linebacker Justin Durant.
The Dallas offense sputtered in the first half once Romo, Bryant and Co. left the field, as Brandon Weeden failed to build on his strong half against the Chargers. Working mainly behind the second-team offensive line, he went 10-of-19 for 129 yards and tossed a long interception in the second quarter. [embedded_ad]
The Cowboys rallied once the backups took charge, though. After falling behind, 34-10, Dallas rallied with a 17-yard touchdown connection from Caleb Hanie to James Hanna. Ryan Williams cut the Ravens' lead to 10 when he bulldozed his way 27 yards to the Baltimore 3-yard line before plunging into the end zone on the next play.
Dustin Vaughan, who was narrowly denied a touchdown last week in San Diego, connected with Jamar Newsome for a five-yard score to cut Baltimore's lead to just 34-30. The Cowboys wouldn't come any closer, however.
Justin Tucker boosted the Ravens' lead to 37-30 with a 49-yard field goal with just 25 seconds remaining. Vaughan's attempt at a last-second touchdown drive fell short when he ran off the game's final seconds with an illegal forward pass penalty.