The Cowboys’ third preseason game was not without its fair share of intrigue. Dallas escaped Mall of America Field with a 23-17 win that featured several big plays, but the most interesting item of the night came just before kickoff. Jerry Jones announced that Andre Gurode would be held out “for financial reasons” and that Kevin Kowalski would start at center in his club’s dress rehearsal game.
Gurode refused to discuss his benching with reporters after the game, but the Cowboys are expected to try to negotiate a reduction in his salary Sunday. Meanwhile, Kowalski’s early reviews were “”http://espn.go.com/blog/dallas/cowboys/post/_/id/4682720/kevin-kowalskis-debut-wasnt-bad" target="new">not bad" as the Cowboys offense scored ten first-half points and moved the ball relatively well.
The Vikings started the scoring on a Donovan McNabb deep ball that Abram Elam misplayed into a 49-yard TD catch for Bernard Berrian. Elam seemed to have the ball tracked, but he mistimed his jump at the goal line and saw the ball sail right through his hands.
The Cowboys answered with 17 straight points. A 37-yard Dan Bailey field goal polished off a 10-play, 68-yard drive. The ensuing Vikings drive fizzled out at the Dallas 30, and Gerald Sensabaugh blocked Ryan Longwell’s field goal attempt. Alan Ball booted the ball down the field before gaining control in time to run it into the end zone.
Minnesota’s next drive ended with Sensabaugh picking off McNabb at the Dallas 19. The Cowboys marched for 11 plays and 77 yards on another scoring drive that culminated with a Felix Jones five-yard TD.
Ball had to leave the game with a hyper-extended elbow that is not expected to see him miss time in the regular season, but Martellus Bennett suffered a high ankle sprain that could keep him out for several weeks.
Dan Bailey kicked field goals from 38 and 41 yards, as Cowboys backups held the lead in the second half. All three backup QBs completed passes for Dallas, even though they combined for just ten attempts.
Despite the win, the Cowboys defense showed more signs of growing pains in Rob Ryan’s newly implemented defense, allowing 442 yards of offense and 6.5 yards per carry. They did force the turnover, and Anthony Spencer, Victor Butler and Andrew Sendejo notched sacks.
DeMarco Murray made his debut, carrying seven times for 32 yards and catching a seven-yard pass. Jesse Holley made strides in his bid for a roster spot with three catches for 51 yards, and Dez Bryant led the way for Dallas with 67 yards on five catches. Kevin Ogletree caught what was almost a long TD pass early, but he couldn’t get both feet down in bounds.
The Cowboys will close out their preseason Thursday in Miami before preparing for their season opener ten days later in New Jersey.