Posted: 10:45 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 25, 2013
By Tom Ryle
It was a formula that I certainly hope Bill Callahan does not forget. Against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Dallas Cowboys came out and shoved Dez Bryant down their throat until they couldn't take it any more. And then, they went and gave them just as nasty a dose of Miles Austin on the way to a nice pre-season win.
That is what you might term a one-two punch, and it may just lay a few more teams out when the regular season rolls around.
On the first scoring drive, Tony Romo (who certainly looks to be ready to start the season, thank you very much, and apparently, no matter what offensive line they put in front of him) threw five consecutive passes to Dez Bryant, culminating in a beautiful back shoulder completion for the touchdown. Get used to a few parts of that. Back shoulder completion. Touchdown. Tony Romo. Dez Bryant. You are going to be hearing various permutations of that all season.
Then, after you know the Bengals, particularly the secondary, were very tired of seeing 88 running patterns, Romo came back a couple of series later and capped off the second touchdown drive of the night with a nifty touchdown to Miles Austin.
Maybe some teams can take one of the wideouts away. But I don't know very many defenses that can manage to take both of them away.
There was a tremendous amount of attention paid to Bryant in camp, because he was simply a beast. He is unquestionably the most potent weapon in the receiving arsenal for the Cowboys. The spotlight on him this year is certainly deserved, but it served to divert attention from the fact that Miles Austin is healthy and looking like the star receiver he was a few seasons ago.
In some ways, Austin actually had a better night than Bryant. He had more yards total, 59 to 54, and a higher average yards gained per reception with 14.8 versus 9.0. His one negative was that he let one pass get through his hands, but maybe that was because it did not fit into his theme for the night, third down receptions to keep the drive going. All four of his catches were on third down, and resulted in either a first down or a touchdown. Pretty productive.
Don't forget, this was not a bad defense that the Cowboys were going against. Cincinnati is predicted to be a real contender for their division this year. Dallas worked well against them. They not only moved adroitly up and down the field at times, but, with some help from a turnover-generating defense (there is another little phrase it looks like you will hear frequently during the regular season), they dominated the time of possession, almost doubling the time the Bengals had the ball on offense, 39:31 to 20:29. Now, time of possession can be a misleading statistic, but here, it tells you exactly what happened. Dallas got on top in the game, took the ball away from the other team, and ran out the clock while controlling the flow and direction of the contest. Those third down receptions by Austin were a key part of it during the first half.
This is just one part of the offensive package that the Cowboys gave us a peek at against the Bengals. It is a key one, but just a part. Dallas showed what happens when they have an effective running game going, which will certainly be discussed further elsewhere, but what is interesting is what they have not shown. The tight ends have been primarily blockers with the first team offense, with Jason Witten only having one catch against Cincinnati. Somehow, that does not seem like something that will hold up for long. Possibly, it is part of getting the ground game established. But I also think that Jason Garrett and Bill Callahan have no need to see what they have with Witten as a receiver. They know. And the Senator's time will come.
Meanwhile, the fact that Miles Austin is back and ready to rock is out of the bag. The headaches for opposing defensive coordinators just got worse. And Austin is not the only one with a wide, infectious grin.