OXNARD, Calif. – Ahmad Dixon delivered blows of his first 11 tackles. It was the 12th that he felt the after effects of getting smacked back.
Dixon, the leading tackler for the Cowboys in Thursday's preseason opener, left the game in the fourth quarter after making a tackle and was checked for a concussion, but he said he was feeling OK afterward.
"I'm feeling good," Dixon said. "Got a little dinged up. It just kind of was a little 'welcome to the NFL' type of blow. But I'm feeling good. I learned a lot. Coaches threw me out there a little bit. I got to showcase my skills a little bit, but overall I feel good.The hit occurred as he went down to tackle running back Marion Grice. The safety's breakout game ended in a concussion test, but he felt like he got out of it all right.
"I had good signs, remembered everything I was supposed to remember, was walking pretty good and was walking pretty steady," Dixon said.
The Baylor safety flew all over the field. He finished with four more tackles than any other defender while playing the majority of the game and recorded a tackle for loss. The Chargers didn't have an incompletion until the 14:24 mark of the game, and that incomplete pass was followed by a crushing hit from Dixon.
Obviously, if Dixon's making plays that means Chargers players are getting past the defensive linemen and linebacker. But Dixon's big hits bailed out the defense a few times.
The hard-hitting safety hopes he won't have to miss time, but he understands that's a possibility.
"I don't think I should, but it's all about whatever the trainers feel," Dixon said. "If they feel it's best for me to miss a couple (practices), I'll do that. But whenever I come back, I'm going to be the same player…it's not going to change the way I play."
The Cowboys finished with nine penalties, including one on a defensive holding call cornerback Terrance Mitchell couldn't believe.
"That penalty, I was like, 'What?' I didn't grab him or nothing," Mitchell said. "The ref explained to me that this year they're calling the game real tight. So it kind of had me hot, but at the same time, I just stayed focused. (Jeff) Heath came through with a big play and I was in the right place at the right time."
That play Heath made was knocking the ball loose on running back Ryan Mathews at the goal line. Mitchell picked the ball up for a touchback.
The Cowboys' rookie corner got reps all night, with the team short at cornerback. He said it felt like he was playing Madden to see Mathews and Philip Rivers on the other side. Mitchell wasn't particularly thrilled with the way he played, but he said he's happy to get an NFL preseason game under his belt.
"At cornerback, I kind of grade myself off getting picks and not giving up touchdowns," Mitchell said. "I didn't give up a touchdown, but I've just got to work on some of my technical stuff in the game."
James Hanna was involved in two of the most important plays of Thursday's game – one good, one bad. Sitting at his locker after the game, Hanna said he's far more likely to remember the missed block that led to a San Diego strip-sack than his touchdown catch.
"Definitely the sack – it's just frustrating, man," Hanna said. "It's preseason, so luckily that one's not going to count."
Hanna finished with two catches for 11 yards – the second of which came in the back of the end zone to put Dallas up, 7-0, early in the second quarter. The pendulum swung the other way on the Cowboys' second possession of the second half. Hanna missed a block on the left edge, allowing Thomas Keiser to smash Caleb Hanie on a sack that led to a Chargers fumble recovery.
Quarterback Brandon Weeden could tell before the game even began that something felt different.
His move to Dallas symbolized a new beginning for Weeden, who took advantage of the opportunity in a Cowboys uniform by going 13-for-17 with a touchdown in the preseason opener.
"It was a different feeling," Weeden said. "When you put on those shoulder pads, it's just, that jersey and that helmet, it's just a cool feeling. It really is. I love it here. I love this group of guys we're going to battle with. It's fun. I enjoyed it. It's something, I definitely thought about it as it was going on."
Weeden credited his offensive line and receivers for playing well around him and said his first performance was something to build on. He said he got his confidence going throughout the game.
"It was fun to prepare for it, kind of get back in that groove," Weeden said. "You practice and you compete against the same guys for so long, so it's nice to go up against another team that's kind of in the same boat. It feels good to kind of knock the rust off, get hit a little bit."
- The Cowboys were playing short on both sides of the ball. That showed on defense, where the Cowboys were missing five starters. To add to the injuries, both Ben Malena (groin) and Dartwan Bush (concussion-like symptoms) left the game.
- Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Orlando Scandrick and Dan Bailey weren't the only Cowboys team captains at the coin toss. Joining them was newcomer Jeremy Mincey, who'll be counted on as the team's right defensive end this year.
"I see a large amount of opportunity," Mincey said. "I usually take advantage of my opportunities. I always have." [embedded_ad]
- B.W. Webb was the only player to return a punt for the Cowboys. He went from one side of the field to the other for six yards.
- Cornerback Korey Lindsey and safety Johnny Thomas played Thursday despite never practicing with the team. The effects of that were evident on the Chargers' 70-yard touchdown pass past Lindsey.
- The first sack of the year went to Cam Lawrence – until it was called back on a defensive holding call.
- In his first game with the Cowboys, guard Zack Martin said there were a couple jitters the first couple plays of the game. He said it was more nerve-racking before the game, and it didn't take long to get settled and calm down once the game began.