In many respects, the number one goal of the preseason is simply to remain healthy, some believing that a team's top players shouldn't take the field for any these meaningless matchups, even the so-called "dress rehearsal" game.
And the Cowboys almost experienced that worst-case scenario in their 27-17 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, as on just the third play of the game, quarterback Tony Romo went down with an apparent back injury.
Scrambling out of the pocket, Romo started to go into his slide when he was hit from behind by defensive end Cliff Avril. That seemed to jar the quarterback into the turf, and he immediately rolled over, reaching for his back.
Although he walked off the field under his own power and later pleaded to return, Romo's night was done, head coach Jason Garrett wisely refusing to send him back in. Romo remained on the sideline throughout the first half, the injury seemingly, hopefully, not as serious as it first seemed.
Still, for those worried about Romo's ability to stay healthy for the entire 2016 season, it was an ominous sign.
On the flip side, Romo's absence gave Dak Prescott a chance to show his stuff, and once again the rookie shined. On the Cowboys' second possession, he led the team on a seven-play, 81-yard drive that wrapped up with a 17-yard pass to Jason Witten in the end zone. Of course, the veteran tight end bailed out his young quarterback somewhat with a beautiful reach over linebacker K.J. Wright for the score and a 7-0 lead.
While those two shared the limelight with the touchdown, it was actually fellow rookie Zeke Elliott who really stood out on the drive. Making his debut with the Cowboys, he rushed five times for 31 yards during the possession, but that was just the half of it.
The Seattle defense, and in particular safety Kam Chancellor, did its best to intimidate the youngster, but he was having none of it. After Chancellor was flagged with an unnecessary roughness penalty for hitting Elliott after the play, the running back got in his face.
Then he took it a step further. Two plays later, Elliott took the handoff, bolted off left tackle and collided with the Chancellor, running over the safety to pick up 8 yards. He again wasn't afraid to give the Pro Bowler a few more choice words.
Throw in a pretty block on a blitz pickup and Elliott showed he was truly worth the No. 4 overall pick in the draft. He finished the game with 48 rushing yards on seven attempts, an impressive 6.9 yards per carry average.
[embeddedad0]Elliot's night may have been done, but Prescott was just getting started. On the team's first series of the second quarter, he nearly hit Terrance Williams on a bomb that would have put Dallas inside the Seattle 20-yard line, only to have the pass broken up at the last minute. Then on the Cowboys' next drive, Prescott got the team close enough for Dan Bailey to attempt a 52-yard field goal, although the reliable kicker pushed it left for a miss.
But with Dallas behind 10-7 and only 3:17 left in the half, Prescott took the team down to the Seahawks' 21-yard line, working the clock to perfection. He calmly spiked the ball with only three seconds left, allowing Bailey to split the uprights on a 40-yarder to tie the score at the break.
After two more uneventful series in the third quarter, Prescott was finished as well. He wrapped up his night with 117 yards on 17-of-23 passing with one touchdown and no interceptions.
On the other side of the ball, the Dallas defense started off strong, limiting the home team to just a field goal through the first quarter and a half, but Seattle finally reached the end zone late in the second frame and from that point on, the Cowboys offered little resistance.
When the Seahawks opened the third quarter with their starting offense against Dallas' second-string defense, they quickly took the lead with a 52-yard field goal. After then reaching the end zone on their next two possessions, the game was all but done.
Dax Swanson had a nifty run on a punt return in the fourth quarter, darting 67 yards for an apparent touchdown, only to have the play called back due to a block in the back penalty. And the Cowboys added a score late in the fourth quarter when Jameill Showers through a nice back-shoulder fade to Rodney Smith on the left side of the end zone to make the score a little more respectable. But those were really the only highlights for those at the bottom of the depth chart trying to make the team.
With the loss, the Cowboys fell to 1-2 on the preseason. They now have until Aug. 30 to cut their roster down to 75 players before then taking on the Houston Texans on Sept. 1 in their final game of the exhibition schedule.
Go behind the lens and view some of our favorite photos from the Cowboys game against the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field.