Sports Outside the Beltway

Cowboys Defeat Seahawks (in Meaningless Exhibition Game)

The Dallas went on the road Cowboys beat the defending NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks despite starting an undrafted free agent at quarterback. Unfortunately, it was just a preseason exhibition game.

[Tony] Romo played all four quarters, seemingly unheard of for a preseason game, but he ran the show all night, leading the Cowboys to an impressive 13-3 win over the Seahawks Saturday here at Qwest Field. Romo completed 19-of-25 passes for 235 yards and one touchdown for a 117.9 quarterback rating. He did not throw an interception, but fumbled two snaps, recovering both. Of course, Parcells pointed out those two fumbles first when asked about Romo in his post-game news conference. “He fumbled two snaps – you can’t do that,” Parcells said. “Other than that, I thought he got us out of some trouble. He made a couple of good back-shoulder throws there to (Jamaica) Rector. “But I thought he generally managed the game. He moved around in the pocket himself. So, that was good. I’m glad I got him the work.”

Now Romo didn’t exactly face the same Seahawks team that represented the NFC in last year’s Super Bowl. And on the flip side, this certainly isn’t the team the Cowboys will trot out Sept. 10 in Jacksonville for the regular-season opener.

Nope, this was the first preseason game, which sometimes can be rather tricky to evaluate. Teams never play all of its best players, and the Cowboys were no exception. Wide receiver Terrell Owens stayed back in Oxnard, Calif., still nursing a sore left hamstring.

The game-plan for preseason games is often different as well. Coaches have a different agenda than the regular season, trying to focus more on situations and specific players. And that’s exactly what Parcells was trying to do Saturday night with Romo. He wanted to see if indeed he has a quality backup to starting quarterback Drew Bledsoe. And no, Bledsoe’s status hasn’t changed despite Romo’s performance.

Parcells said he had never played a quarterback for an entire preseason game, but has said all along that evaluating Romo was at the very top of his priority list. “I’m trying to find something out,” he said. “I told you I was going to do it. So there it is. But we may do some of it, I don’t know.”

After the game, Bledsoe said he wasn’t disappointed “at all” with sitting out the preseason opener. “I knew what we going to do,” Bledsoe said. “They told me Tony was going to play a lot. So it wasn’t a surprise. I thought he played very well. He played how I expected him to. He came out here, was efficient and threw the ball well.” But Bledsoe admitted that he missed being on the field, and said he will be “ready to rock” Aug. 21 when the Cowboys travel to Shreveport, La., for the second preseason game against the Saints.

Who knows how Parcells will play his quarterbacks then. He said after the game the players who didn’t play in Seattle would play next week, but that might not apply at the quarterback position. Parcells probably still has a few things he wants to see out of Romo. But the fourth-year quarterback certainly gave him plenty to see Saturday night.

Things actually didn’t start well for Romo, whose first pass of the game was dropped by rookie Sam Hurd. He fumbled a snap on second down but recovered it. Then the offensive line had a false start penalty, and Romo threw an incomplete pass to tight end Anthony Fasano. Just like that, the offense was off the field. “I just made a few mistakes there in that first drive,” said Romo. “We kind of got in a hole there early on. But we were able to bounce back and start moving the ball. The offensive line did a really good job. I was just happy we were able to put a few points on the board.”

Now 13 points didn’t exactly light up the scoreboard, but it proved to be sufficient with the Cowboys’ stingy defense holding the Seahawks to just one field goal. Wwhile the offense didn’t score a lot of points, they did hold onto the ball for nearly 35 minutes.

After a quick and unproductive first series, the offense responded with its best drive of the game, moving 89 yards on 15 plays, excluding four more that were nullified by penalties. And more importantly, the drive took 10:12 off the clock, ending with Romo firing a 9-yard bullet pass to wide receiver Patrick Crayton, who outfought Seattle defenders in the end zone for the touchdown. “I watched a lot of film this week and on the touchdown throw – it was just a coverage that I had seen a bunch,” Romo said. “Patrick had a good release. The safety was outside, I just waited for him to cross his face a little bit . . . and it worked out well.” Two drives later, Romo connected with Crayton twice more, including a 30-yard pass that might have been a touchdown had Crayton not fumbled the ball. Crayton recovered and the offense kept moving, getting a first-and-goal at the Seattle 3. But a two-yard loss by running back Marion Barber, an incomplete pass and then a false start penalty forced Dallas to settle for a field goal by Mike Vanderjagt.

“I thought we had more chances to score that we let get away,” Romo said. “But that’s O.K. We’ll go back and look at the film and try to correct the mistakes. That’s what you do in the preseason. “But overall, I thought it was a good start for us and something we can build on.”

And finally, Parcells has something to evaluate Romo on.

That, really, is all you can hope for in a preseason game, aside from avoiding injuries.

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