Winning and losing was not at the top of the agenda for the Dallas Cowboys in Thursday’s preseason final at Sun Life Stadium.
It proved to be an ugly and costly 17-3 loss to the Miami Dolphins.
The primary goal was to keep the starters and many front-line players out of harms way in advance of the Sept. 11 regular-season opener at the New York Jets.
Yet, with 3 seconds left in the game, wide receiver Raymond Radway suffered a broken left fibula and was carted off the field.
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It was a crushing blow for Radway and the entire team. The rookie free agent from Abilene Christian was one of the big surprises of training camp and was about to live out a dream of making the team, according owner Jerry Jones.
Now Radway, who flew home on Jones’ private plane, will have to wait until next year.
The Cowboys held out a total of 28 injured and healthy players.
They also wanted to evaluate several young players and make roster decisions with final cuts set for Saturday.
The biggest decision the Cowboys needed to make was at kicker where they still had five candidates on the roster. But the situation remains muddled.
Veteran Dave Rayner was seemingly the leading candidate considering he was signed last Tuesday and the Cowboys lengthy history of scouting him. He had a disappointing outing after missing wide right on a 51-yard try in the third quarter and missing badly wide left on a 36-yarder on the final play of the game.
David Buehler, who handled all the kicking duties last season, was good from 20 yards out, but missed a 48-yarder.
Dan Bailey and Shayne Graham didn’t kick.
"It wasn’t good," Rayner said. "That’s not how I wanted to come in here. The first one I pushed it a little bit. The second one I slipped on the mud. But you can’t make excuses. You have to make field goals if you want to try to win a job."
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett is still weighing his options at kicker.
“Ultimately, we have to evaluate the bottom line. We’ll see,” Garrett said. “It was an opportunity we wanted to give him [Rayner] in that situation [final kick].”
The most impressive play came from rookie running back DeMarco Murray, who missed the first three weeks of training camp with a hamstring injury.
On the Cowboys’ first offensive play, the former Oklahoma star showed the speed, quickness and pass catching ability that made him a third-round pick in the 2011 draft.
He caught a screen pass and darted 48 yards up the left sideline.
Murray had four catches for 64 yards and 10 rushes for 32 yards in his most extensive action of the preseason.
“I think he’s a natural receiver,” Garrett said. “The timing of that thing [screen] looked good to me,”
With quarterback Tony Romo and backup Jon Kitna held out, former Texas A&M star Stephen McGee went the majority of the way.
He moved the team up and down the field, but he was unable to get the Cowboys in the end zone.
His first drive, which was sparked by the Murray catch and run, ended with an interception in the end zone.
McGee directed a time-consuming 17-play, 84-yard drive that took all of the final 8 minutes, 47 seconds of the second quarter.
But Cowboys were unable to punch it in the end zone after getting a first and goal at the 5-yard line.
McGee finished with respectable numbers, completing 21 of 25 passes for 233 yards and an interception in three quarters of play. The offense totaled 317 yards while he was in the game, but scored just three points.
The Cowboys backups and third stringers on defense didn’t offer many standout performances, although Jones acknowledged during the TV broadcast that rookie Phillip Tanner had basically made the team. Tanner had six carries for 28 yards and has been solid throughout training camp.
The most notable plays came from the Dolphins, including a 22-yard touchdown run on a first-and-20 situation by veteran running back Larry Johnson.
Dolphins backup quarterback Matt Moore, who went to camp with the Cowboys in 2007 before being cut, also had a strong outing.
He completed nine of 11 passes for 142 yards. He had big plays of 20, 22 and 42 yards before hitting a wide-open Jeron Mastrud with an 18-yard touchdown pass.
Dallas safety Barry Church had two pass deflections. But the defense recorded no sacks and no turnovers.
Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan’s new scheme has recorded just one turnover in four preseason games.
Clarence Hill, 817-390-7760