It wasn’t exactly pretty or fun to watch, but Dallas did manage to beat the Minnesota Vikings 16-10 Thursday night on the strength of three Nick Folk field goals and a Tashard Choice touchdown run to end their preseason at 2-2. Richard Bartel was efficient, but not spectacular by any means in his first NFL start going 28-of-41 for 233 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.
The most explosive play of the game also led to the worst result as WR Sam Hurd rushed for 35-yards on an end around reverse play, but came up limping after the tackle. He was taken in for X-rays which were inconclusive, but the words “high ankle sprain” were used in reference to the injury. This could mean yet another Cowboys wide receiver will not be available until two or three weeks into the season.
Before the game began, word was out that Dallas had traded for Montrae Holland, a guard from the Denver Broncos, in return for a 2010 fifth-round draft pick to help shore-up a depleted offensive line. Holland started every game last year at left guard for the Broncos and may be Kyle Kosier’s replacement at the position if none of the other possiblities can do the job. It appeared that Pat McQuistan, normally a tackle, did rather well filling in for Kosier in the position with the starting o-line tonight. Joe Berger also made several key blocks during the game from the guard spot, including the 11-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
The Cowboys now have roughly ten days to resolve the injury problems and get ready for the opener against Cleveland. While Isaiah Stanback claims he will be ready, he is still quite shaky with a dislocated shoulder and Miles Austin is out for at least three weeks with a MCL sprain. Tonight would have been a primetime for some other young receiver to step up and show what he could do and the closest person to do so was Mike Jefferson, a second-year receiver out of Montana State who had several big catches early in the game finishing with 3 receptions for 36-yards. Rookie free agent Danny Amendola had some opportunities on punt and kick returns plus a couple of receptions, but nothing that amazing either in his performance.
The defense played very well, particularly the second and third string defenses. LB Tyson Smith intercepted the first pass of the evening by Minnesota’s John David Booty setting up the touchdown run and the defense only allowed one scoring drive in the first half and just a field goal in the second. The kick coverage teams did a much better job as well, only allowing one above-average return late in the game keeping the Vikings in their end of the field the majority of the time following great McBriar punts or Nick Folk kickoffs.
Folk, meanwhile, kicked two 52-yard field goals and P Matt McBriar boomed several punts over 50+ yards giving the Vikings a long field all night. I’d say the kicking game is definitely in great shape heading into the regular season.
Like the Cowboys, the Vikings sat most of their starters for this game also, with Booty playing quarterback for the first half of the game and Brooks Bollinger the second half. Running back sensation Adrian Peterson and gang never stepped onto the field, much like Romo and company.
Another positive about the game for the Cowboys was a glaring lack of penalties or turnovers. They had just 2 penalties for a mere 10-yards with no turnovers, although Mike Jefferson did fumble once after a reception but managed to recover it himself.