Things have wrapped up here at Cowboys Stadium, as the Cowboys took a 20-19 win over the Rams in the third preseason game for both teams. Special thanks to St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher for going for a PAT after his team had pulled within two in the final minutes. Major props there.
We’ll hit this from a Rams perspective tomorrow … but want some Cowboys notes?
– First, some not good news. Nose tackle Jay Ratliff left the locker room on crutches, and owner Jerry Jones said he had suffered an ankle sprain. Jones wouldn’t speculate on the severity, with more tests scheduled tomorrow, but he could miss some time. Not good. Of course, Ratliff sat out the first two preseason games, and the first-team defense looked solid. So, at least they have that.
– It would be difficult to imagine QB Tony Romo playing better than he did tonight. He was 9-of-13 passing for 198 yards and two TDs, looking sharp and earning himself a short day of work. He was slated to go into the third quarter, but with the way he was playing, it wasn’t necessary to go until halftime. What’s crazy is that Romo did it without his three top weapons — Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. Injuries will happen, they always do, and being able to get the job done without your top guys is huge. “I just think I have to go out and execute the plan, find the open guy and do what we do,” Romo said. “When we get those starters back, it’ll be a huge boost for us.”
– Speaking of Witten, his backup was John Phillips, who had a really sound night. It didn’t really show up in the stats, as he had just one catch for 10 yards. But one catch he had was negated after an iffy call that said he dropped it, and there was a questionable pass-interference call on a sweet falling catch near the goal line. No, he’s not Witten. He’ll never be. But I was impressed (for whatever the heck that is worth). “You can never replace Jason Witten,” Romo said. “That goes without saying. He’s as good a tight end as there is. But John’s been watching Jason all these years, he’s learning a lot. We’ve got a nice stable of tight ends, and I thought he did a nice job tonight.”
– Really stellar performance by CB Morris Claiborne tonight, who had a nice pass-breakup in the end zone. He’s come a long way from getting torched in training camp. What did he see on that nifty fourth-down breakup? “I knew it was fourth down, so he wasn’t throwing anything but in the end zone,” Claiborne said. “I didn’t know who he was throwing to, but I tried my best to cover my man and I came away with the breakup. I saw (the football) when I turned around. See, I was in the back of the end zone, and I had the guy squared away good enough to where I could look back, and he was throwing the ball.” Great instincts.
– On the subject of CBs, Jones said CB Mike Jenkins (shoulder), doesn’t have an appointment to see Dr. James Andrews to get his shoulder checked out, but there will be one “sooner rather than later.” Jones was interesting on the subject of the PUP list, and it sounded like he didn’t want to put Jenkins on it. “We’ve got a roster spot for him,” Jones said, but said all possibilities are open.
– Big, surprise performance from WR Dwayne Harris, who had three catches for 118 yards and two scores. One was a 61-yarder. Yikes. He’s battling for that third wideout role, and he said simply, “I think it was a pretty good game for myself.” I’d say. On one TD, he split two defenders, which is a drill they work on everyday. “It’s second-nature now,” Harris said. As for his first TD, he added, “Catching my first touchdown pass from Tony Romo felt great. Then, coming again with that second one, you can’t ask for two, but I got two, so I felt great.”
– Think the optimism is palpable for this Cowboys defense? It is. The first unit has been lights out. Cornerback Brandon Carr, a newcomer, was pumped. “It just shows what a whole offseason can bring for a defense,” Carr said. “With a scheme as complicated as coach (Rob) Ryan’s scheme and for us to have a whole offseason to be around each other, go out there and execute it, mess up, break it down on film, correct it, mess up again, it’s a never-ending process. It just shows guys are on the same page and are really taking this thing serious. Guys are in meetings asking questions on the littlest things. And it comes to show in big games and when we start playing Sept. 5. Guys are just honing in. ‘What can I do to make this defense good?’ It can be from the starting DE to the backup safety.”