LOS ANGELES– The second preseason game was another close one for the Cowboys, who found themselves on the short end of a 13-10 loss to the Rams.
But like all preseason games, the final score isn't the biggest story, behind the individual performers and the injuries that occur.
While there are other headlines that will focus on the continued success of Rico Gathers and the big plays made by the defense and rookie Taco Charlton, let's focus more on moments that might have gone unnoticed. This spot is usually saved for the five plays that changed the game. But in the preseason, let's focus on five other players and/or aspects of the game.
So this preseason version will include players, stats and sometimes plays that get overlooked.
- Complete sloppiness – It looked like the first preseason game for the Rams, who fumbled the ball five times and were fortunate to lose only one. They nearly had another one that could've changed the outcome of the game but the replay officials ruled a pass incomplete instead of a catch and fumble. The Cowboys weren't much better, fumbling four times with two lost fumbles. There were a total of 16 penalties, including nine by the Rams. Another area that wasn't crisp was third-down percentage. Both teams were a combined 6 of 30 (both 3 of 15 each). The point to all of this is just another example how these games include a mixed bag of players and personnel groups, making the evaluation process even more difficult for both teams.
- Bell's penalties– The Cowboys gave Byron Bell a shot to start at left guard. And it might have put Jonathan Cooper back in the lead, or perhaps left the door back open for Chaz Green when he returns from a shoulder injury. None of the first-team line did a great job in the first half but Bell was flagged for two holding penalties while playing left guard. He did move out to tackle later in the game, but this was his moment to grab a hold of the starting job and it likely didn't happen. Expect more changes this week as Green gets closer to a return.
- Duke & Lenny– While Taco Charlton and Xavier Woods stood out with impressive performances, that is expected out of the drafted players. But don't forget about Duke Thomas and Lenny Jones. Both players flew around the ball on Saturday on defense and special teams. Jones is one player who could benefit from all the injuries and suspensions at defensive end. He recorded a sack, a tackle for loss and a pass deflection, along with three tackles. Thomas has been somewhat of a forgotten player with three drafted corners ahead of him but he had four tackles and another on special teams, along with good coverage down the field. They might still be longshots to make it but definitely upped their stock on Saturday.
- Rico's Recovery– Yes, Rico scored a touchdown for the second time in two games. That's the highlight we see the most and the play everyone keeps talking about – and rightfully so. In two games, he's scored two touchdowns down the field. Let's not overlook the hustle and strength to go down and recover a fumble in the open field just two plays earlier. Rico wasn't in the best position to get the ball but he dove in and outfought other defenders to pull it away. That's the type of "dirty work" plays that made him a great rebounder. He doesn't even score the touchdown if he doesn't get that fumble.
- Troubled Start & Finish– A closer look at the stat sheet shows the Cowboys' problems early and late, especially on offense. Looking at the 10 longest plays from scrimmage, none of them occurred in the first or fourth quarter. Everything took place in the middle of the game. In fact, the only three plays longer than 20 yards occurred on one drive. With some first-teamers on offense in the game, they never mustered anything longer than 10 yards and in the fourth, with Luke McCown as the quarterback, they couldn't sustain any drives to tie or win the game. Last year's team started and ended games rather well so this is something the Cowboys hope is a preseason issue.