It was a terrible night for the Dallas Cowboys. Oh, and they lost the game, too.
Yes, the Cowboys fell, 21-13, to the Cincinnati Bengals in their second game of the preseason, but even that was overshadowed by six serious injuries, one potentially crucial to the Cowboys' hopes this season.
Midway through the second quarter, on Dallas' third possession of the night, right guard Zack Martin left the game with a knee injury. The All-Pro is not only considered perhaps the best player on the team, but is also widely known as the top player at his position in the NFL. Throw in the season-ending injury to presumed backup guard Marcus Martin in last week's game, and Joe Looney having to take over at center for Travis Frederick, who was resting a sore neck, and things suddenly seem very thin at that guard position for the Cowboys.
Adding to the team's woes was the departure of Xavier Woods. Late in the same second quarter, the presumed starter at strong safety took off after a potential interception, only to come up with a hamstring injury. He, too, was done for the night.
The third Cowboy to then head for the locker room was rookie running back Bo Scarbrough, who appeared to have an issue with his left hip. He was slated to play most of the second half and is expected to be a contributor in the Dallas rushing attack this season.
And then came Datone Jones, who had been one of the standout performers during training camp. The defensive tackle went down not long after Scarbrough in the third quarter with a knee injury. He was followed by Duke Thomas and a shoulder injury as well as safety Jameill Showers, who left and went straight to the trainer's room with a knee issue of his own.
The severity of each was still unknown with more tests expected to be done tomorrow.
In the end, the game seemed of little consequence, but there was, of course, still a game to be played. Quarterback Dak Prescott and most of the first-team offense came out to start the game, aside from Fredrick, Cole Beasley and, of course, Ezekiel Elliot. And the unit didn't manage to do much on its initial try, totaling 19 yards on six plays before being forced to punt.
But the team's next two possessions saw points put on the scoreboard. After punter Chris Jones pinned the Bengals down at their own 4-yard line, the defense, which featured Sean Lee making his first start of the preseason at linebacker, did their job and forced a punt as well. That gave Dallas the ball at its own 49-yard line.
After an 8-yard pass to tight end Geoff Swaim underneath, Prescott went back to the air three snaps later, throwing underneath to running back Rod Smith who took the pass 19 yards into field goal territory. Dan Baily then took care of business on his first try of the preseason by splitting the uprights on a 35-yard attempt, the Cowboys up 3-0.
Dallas' next drive wouldn't be as easy, but would definitely be more impressive. Following another solid effort by the defense, the Cowboys took over at their own 18-yard line. From there, Prescott methodically marched his troops 82 yards in 16 plays while chewing up 8:82 of clock. The quarterback connected with Terrance Williams and Allen Hurns for 10 yards each and then went back to Swaim for 8 more. That's when Smith ground out four straight rushes for 27 yards as the clocked ticked over into the second quarter.
On they continued until the Cowboys found themselves facing third-and-goal at the Bengals' 6-yard line. That's when Prescott went back to pass again, avoided the pressure by working his way out to the left, and then found Williams just inside the left pylon, the receiver having battled nicely to get open.
Now up 10-0, Prescott and a large chunk of his fellow starters were done for the night, Cooper Rush taking over behind center. He had two chances with the offense in the final 1:13 before the half, thanks to a beautiful interception by Chidobe Awuzie, but the Cowboys couldn't do much with the ball, settling for the 10-point lead at the break.
The second half saw the game slowly but surely turn into an exhibition affair with more mistakes, more penalties and just general poorer play. Cincinnati was able to finally get on the board to open the third quarter, as kicker Jonathan Brown walloped a 55-yard field goal for three points.
Unfortunately, things didn't get any better. Jones did his job and forced the Bengals to start at their own 8-yard line on their next drive. And Dallas appeared to have the situation under control when a Cincinnati pass fell to the ground on third-and-10. But Anthony Brown was called for defensive holding, only a 5-yard penalty but an automatic first down. That was then followed by a third-and-11 at the Bengals' 41-yard line when wide receiver Alex Erickson got past the secondary and the left sideline for a big 28-yard gain.
Given the gifts, the visitors took advantage. They eventually reached the end zone on their 14th play when running back Trae Johnson barreled up the middle from 2 yards out. Bengals head coach Marv Lewis then decided to go for two points, sparing one and all from a potential overtime, and was rewarded with a successful attempt, Cincinnati now up 11-10.
The Bengals appeared to be well on their way to running away with it when Johnson added a 34-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, but Dallas responded with a 9-play, 48-yard drive that saw running back Darius Jackson break off rushes of 18 and 13 yards – as well as another 10 yarder that was called back because of penalty – to lead the team down the field. The drive ended with Brett Maher kicking a 48-yard field goal to narrow the score to 14-13.
On the very next snap of their next possession, though, the Bengals put to rest any hopes of a comeback. Quarterback Matt Barkley dumped a seemingly innocent pass off to Brian Hill, but the running back escaped for a huge 44-yard gain down to the Dallas 15-yard line. Three plays later, the two connected again for the touchdown, Cincinnati wrapping up the scoring and heading home with the 21-13 win.
With the loss, the Cowboys fell to 0-2 on the preseason. They will be back at home on Aug. 26 when they'll host the Arizona Cardinals in a prime-time Sunday Night Football matchup. Until then, the Cowboys and their fans will hold their collective breath awaiting word on Martin, who did come out to watch the end of the game on the sidelines wearing street clothes, and the team's other their injured players.