If it were a regular season game, the opening drive on either side of the ball would be just that - merely the first of eight or 10 opportunities in a long game. Not decisive in any way.
But in the preseason opener that's all we get to see of the starters, which makes the game probably the most unsatisfying each and every season. After eight months with no real action, the best players are gone in a matter of minutes.
Jason Garrett and John Fox have their reasons - both must pick the best 53-man roster for their team, and furthermore there's little sense in risking injury to a top player. This was predictable. Maybe it's because of the lockout and the lack of work for the players during the offseason, but it really seemed like both the Cowboys' No. 1 offense and No. 1 defense could've used just one extra opportunity.
Fox pulled his starters after a drive too, but surely Broncos observers came away as unsatisfied as those of us who follow the Cowboys. Denver drove the ball down the Cowboys' throats to start the game, but stalled inside the 10-yard line. Then Tony Romo's unit ran nine plays before settling for a field goal themselves.
There were so many snaps with the starters that the coaches probably got exactly what they needed out of the first quarter. But it's so disappointing, isn't it, to come away without any resolution? It almost had the feel of a totally seperate game when Stephen McGee led the third-stringers to a 24-23 win.
Surely someone must agree with me?
"We all were talking on the sidelines, talking about 'Wish we could've been out there a lot more," Dez Bryant said. "But hey, we were expecting it already. The younger guys, they just had us fired up. It was real great to see."
One of the most passionate competitors on the team, Bryant was highly expressive as a cheerleader for the game's final 50 minutes. Knowing players like Dwayne Harris and Raymond Radway quite personally, it's easier for him to get worked up about the fourth quarter of the preseason opener than most people.
"I love this game," Bryant said. "Not only that, I love when guys on our team do well like they did tonight. They did great. They went out there with passion and they just went out and did their best."
The Cowboys' starters should play into the second quarter next Sunday against San Diego, then past halftime in Week 3 of the preseason, at Minnesota. It's unlikely the first-teamers will play at all in the exhibition finale at Miami on Sept. 1.