Even in the preseason, big plays can doom you.
A Cowboys defense that is seemingly stacked with depth gave up far too many explosive plays for the liking in a 22-14 loss at the Seattle Seahawks. In all, Dallas surrendered at least 15 yards on nine plays – as well as another 20-yarder called back because of a penalty – with five of those going for 25 yards or more.
Throw in a 27-yard punt return allowed, a 20-yard interception return and a Seattle blocked punt, and it was a rough night overall for the Cowboys side.
With Dak Prescott and the other starters comfortably resting on the sidelines, Cooper Rush again began the game behind center and led the team for the first three series. He ended his night with 96 yards off of 9 for 14 passing with one touchdown and a 108.0 passer rating.
Will Grier then carried the load the rest of the way with a roller-coaster effort. He finished with 136 passing yards and completed 72.2 percent of his attempts, but also threw the team's lone interception for a 70.6 passer rating.
While there hasn't been much of a battle for the backup quarterback role, the battle for second running back honors is very much alive. Rico Dowdle had eight carries for a 4.8-yard average with Malik Davis getting eight as well for a 4.0-yard mark. Deuce Vaughn saw all of his action in the second half, averaging just 2.8 yards on five carries, but with one electric touchdown run.
Similarly, the fourth receiver spot behind CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks and Michael Gallup might be solidified as well. Jalen Tolbert capped off a brilliant week at training camp with a strong performance in Seattle, leading all receivers with 66 yards off of four catches for an impressive 16.5 yards per catch average.
On the other side of the ball, the Cowboys defense was stingy at times but also left an abundance of space for opponents to roam free throughout the night. The Seahawks totaled 358 yards in the game with 141 of those coming on the ground, last year's problem of stopping the run rearing its ugly ahead again.
Making matters worse, DeMarvion Overshown (knee), the rookie who has shined at linebacker, and Matt Waletzko (shoulder), a leading candidate for the swing tackle role, both left early with injuries. In addition, so too did tight end John Stephens (knee) and safety Sheldrick Redwine (hamstring).
Although punter Bryan Anger pinned the Seahawks in at their own 4-yard line to begin their second drive, Seattle's starters were able to push past midfield thanks in large part to back-to-back plays of 26 and 29 yards. But a Sam Williams sack on third down stopped the drive, the home side getting on the board first with a 57-yard field goal.
The Cowboys came right back on their next possession, though, a lengthy 17-play, 80-yard drive that saw the team eat up 7:48 off the clock on their way to pay dirt. Rush completed 7 of 10 passes for 58 yards during the series, the last of which was a 6-yard out to Rico Dowdle, who raced to the left pylon for the touchdown.
Unfortunately, the lead didn't last long, as Seattle rallied with a pair of scores of their own before the half to take a 17-7 lead into the break.
And both came courtesy of costly Cowboys mistakes. On the first, the Dallas defense appeared to be off the field when a Seahawks pass on third-and-6 at their own 29-yard line fell incomplete. But safety Juanyeh Thomas was flagged for taunting, granting Seattle 15 yards and a new set of downs.
Given the gift, two plays later quarterback Drew Lock hit rookie wideout Jaxon Smith-Njigba on a 48-yard bomb down to the Cowboys' 1-yard line. The final yard was left to DeeJay Dallas, who powered up the middle to jump the home team back ahead, 10-7.
Then on their next possession, Lock picked apart the young Dallas secondary for completions of 21, 32 and 11 yards with another 12 coming thanks to a roughing the passer penalty on Williams. Eventually, SaRodorick Thompson darted around the right end for another 1-yard touchdown and a 10-point advantage.
Having taken over for Rush midway through the second quarter, Grier came out again for the half and quickly got Dallas back on the board. Marching 71 yards in six plays, he connected twice with rookie tight end Luke Schoonmaker for a combined 22 yards and found fellow tight end Sean McKeon for 10 more before Vaughn cut and spun his way the final 14 yards for the Cowboys' second touchdown of the night.
After the Dallas defense held strong on a fourth-and-1 with Seattle on the Cowboys' 28-yard line, Grier went back to work, and with a 15-yard pass to Dontario Drummond, he had Dallas in business at the Seahawks' 19-yard line as the quarter came to a close.
The good times came to a screeching halt, however, when on the second play of the final frame, a Grier pass intended for Simi Fehoko in the end zone was instead intercepted by Tre Brown at the goal line, the cornerback returning the pick 20 yards.
That led to a 36-yard field goal for the Seahawks and a blocked Anger punt by John Hall resulted in a safety for the home club, but when a Seattle field goal attempt from 43 yards out then sailed wide left, there was still hope for the Dallas faithful, down by eight points.
And when the two-minute warning hit soon thereafter, that hope increased as the Cowboys were threatening with a second-and-5 at the Seahawks' 30-yard line. But on fourth-and-3, a desperate Grier was sacked for a 20-yard loss, game over.