If exhibition games are supposed to
help teams figure out what areas they need to improve in, then the
Dallas Cowboys are doing a good job.
Dallas lost its third straight preseason game Saturday night,
this time falling 34-14 to the New England Patriots in rain and
The first-team offense was unimpressive despite scoring for the
first time, the defense gave several big plays and the special
teams were well blow their normally high level.
The Cowboys even went 0-for-2 on instant replay challenges.
"There was some good and some bad," said coach Chan Gailey,
who is still looking for his first preseason victory. "There are
some things obviously we need to work on."
The first preseason touchdown from the starters came on a 6-yard
pass from Troy Aikman to David LaFleur midway through the first
quarter. Aikman also guided two three-and-out drives and was
intercepted before giving way to Jason Garrett.
"We didn't play well," said Aikman, a native of Henryetta,
Okla. "But, thankfully, we don't have to beat our heads against a
wall because we have time to improve."
The defense allowed touchdown passes of 24 and 36 yards, plus a
21-yarder that set up New England's first touchdown.
Terry Glenn caught the 21- and 24-yarders, both over Kevin
Mathis, Dallas' top cornerback as long as Deion Sanders and Kevin
Smith are out. Mathis beat out Smith for a starting spot during
Mathis wasn't totally to blame for the touchdown; it came on a
lob forced by a blitz that failed to rattle Bledsoe.
New England went just 35 and 37 yards for its first two
touchdowns because of special teams breakdowns by Dallas.
Cowboys kickers were off, too, although weather may have been
part of the reason for the punters averaging 34.4 yards on five
tries and Richie Cunningham missing his only field goal attempt, a
"We're going to take our lumps in the preseason," safety
Darren Woodson said. "It's no big deal."
The Cowboys can shrug off their summer struggles because the
same thing happened last year with no ill effects in the fall. An
0-5 preseason was followed by a 10-6 regular season and the
In a real game, Dallas would have scouted its opponent and try
targeting their weaknesses. In the preseason, the coaches want to
work on their own flaws while testing some of the new plays adding
in recent practices. The No. 1 priority is evaluating their own
plays and players, with the final score much lower on the objective
"We never like to lose, but we were looking at a lot of people
and some new things offensively and defensively that we put in this
week," Gailey said. "We evaluate these and continue to try and
get better. The objective is to peak when the season starts."
The Cowboys' next game -- Sunday night, at home, against two-time
defending Super Bowl champion Denver -- is the only one of the
exhibition season with any true weight.
It's not the opponent that matters as much as the fact Dallas
will use its starters for two quarters. The second half will be key
to players fighting for jobs because it'll be their last
opportunity to impress coaches before the next round of cuts.
"Next week, the starters will play more," Aikman said. "Then,
the pressure will be on a little more."
Dallas also hopes to be healthier by Sunday. Against New
England, the Cowboys held out 19 players, including receiver Raghib
Ismail, who has yet to play in the preseason because of a
slightly separated left shoulder, told Gailey he could play, but
the coach decided the weather would've made it too much of a risk.