Punt. Fumble. Fumble. That was your first-team offense.
Interception. Punt. Interception. That was your second-team offense.
Throw in another fumble on the Cowboys' first punt-return attempt of the day, making it five turnovers in one half of play, and the team's 12-7 loss to the Cardinals left many a fan frustrated.
At least the defense played well in the Cowboys' third game of the preseason, as despite all that ugliness, the starting unit only allowed a single field goal. And, Dallas was only down 9-0 after two quarters.
"Obviously five turnovers is inexcusable," said head coach Jason Garrett. "It happened on offense with fumbles and interceptions and happened in the kicking game with fumbles. I thought our defense did a very good job in the sudden change situations, holding them to field goals. To think you turned it over five times and only gave them nine points is pretty impressive."
Monte Kiffin's crew did look dominant at times and held strong despite having their backs against the wall on multiple occasions, keeping the Cardinals out of the end zone through the first half.
"For the first defense, we got some good work in today," said cornerback Brandon Carr." We had a passing attack offense that we had to prepare for all week. They gave us some different looks, tried to run some screens, tried to run the ball to soften us up. They got a couple of big plays on us, but we made the tackle and still tried to work the ball out. We still have to work on some little things, but overall when we get down in the red zone, we don't allow touchdowns, we give them field goals. We will trade them field goals for touchdowns."
Among those battling for roster spots, George Selvie showed up again with another sack and Ben Bass added one as well. And rookie linebacker DeVonte Holloman continued his knack for making plays, first seemingly causing Arizona quarterback Drew Stanton to fumble before the call was overturned, and then stopping a Cardinals drive with an interception on the Dallas 2-yard line, his second of the preseason.
But the story of the game for the Cowboys was the turnovers. Two of the fumbles came when the Arizona defender simply outmuscled the Cowboys' offensive player, Dwayne Harris being stripped of the ball on the punt return and Dez Bryant also having the ball pried from his arms after a long reception.
The other fumble actually came on perhaps the Cowboys' most electric play of the game. Early in the second quarter, Lance Dunbar took a little dump-off pass from quarterback Tony Romo and exploded, splitting the seam for a 43-yard gain to the Cardinals 7-yard line. But tripped up at the end, the second-year back was unable to hang on to the ball – despite never actually being hit up high – Arizona recovering to end the Dallas threat.
Both of the interceptions were simply bad throws by backup quarterback Kyle Orton, who didn't see the cornerback break off his route on the first one, then fluttered a jump ball deep on the second.
Still, the starting offense did move the chains, putting up five first downs and 152 total yards in their limited work. Collectively, they just need to hold onto the ball.
"I feel like we came out and performed extremely well," said Bryant, who despite the fumble finished the game with 74 receiving yards on only four catches. "Besides the fumbles, everything was great out there. When we get back to practice, I need to make sure I have that ball high and tight, not have it loose and keep it safe so we can go down and get to another play. Again, besides the fumbles, I think we have done extremely well. We were playing explosive, but there's always room to get better."
"I thought the guys did good," said Romo. "We moved the ball really well. Obviously turnovers are going to get you beat in this league. It is paramount that we don't let that happen again. We are going to have some hard teaching sessions going over this tape, and it will be good for the guys."
Handed the quarterbacking reins in the second half, Alex Tanney completed each of his first 11 attempts, finishing with 136 yards on 14-of-19 passing in the game. On his second possession of work, he led the squad on an extended 16-pay, 89-yard drive that chewed up 9:53 of clock, hitting Gavin Escobar in the flat from 5 yards out, the rookie tight end lunging to the pylon for the touchdown. With Dan Bailey's extra point, Dallas narrowed the score to 9-7.
But that would be all they could muster. Arizona came right back with a 10-play, 74-yard drive of their own, chipping in their fourth field goal of the day, a 22-yarder, to make it 12-7. The Cowboys were able to move to the Cardinals' 45-yard line, but then the turnover bug bit Tanney, as he threw an interception to end any hopes of a comeback. [embedded_ad]
The Cowboys now head home for their final preparation, their last two preseason games to be held at AT&T Stadium. They'll host the Bengals on Aug. 24, followed by the Texans on Aug. 29.