The good news coming out of AT&T Stadium on Thursday night is that the Dallas Cowboys suffered no serious injuries to their star players in the 24-6 loss to the Houston Texans in the preseason finale.
That’s because the entire starting lineup for both teams sat out the game for precautionary reasons with the season openers just nine days away.
The Cowboys had little else to feel good about as the Texans dominated the matchup of backups to claim the Governor’s Cup Trophy for the second time since 2010.
Especially troubling for the Cowboys was a run defense that gave up 124 yards in the first half en route to 190 in the game. It highlights the lack of depth the Cowboys have on the defensive line with tackle Jay Ratliff out for six weeks on the physically unable to perform list.
The situation grew worse in the third quarter when veteran backup defensive tackle Sean Lissemore left the game with a head injury, putting his status for the opener against the New York Giants in question.
“You want to play better than we played tonight,” coach Jason Garrett said. “Again a lot of young guys were playing for us and for them you try to evaluate individuals as much as you evaluate the whole group.
“I thought our run defense has been pretty good during the preseason with some of our veteran players. In some ways it does reflect on the depth of our football team right now.”
Garrett said Lissemore “looks like he got hit on the head. I have to see what his status is when he comes in in the morning.”
The ironic thing about the Texans’ dominance on the ground was a source before the game said Houston was concerned about its backup running backs behind Arian Foster and Ben Tate.
Those worries quickly subsided. Houston went 87 yards on six plays the first time it touched the ball, thanks to runs of 29 yards by Dennis Johnson and 41 yards by Cierre Wood.
Johnson scored on a 5-yard run.
A Cowboys team that has had problems the entire preseason on special teams continued the trend late in the first quarter when Johnson muffed a punt, then picked the ball up and reeled off a 29-yard return.
Lissemore got the ball back for the Cowboys with a forced fumble on Johnson.
Two series later, the Cowboys showed some life on offense, thanks to rookie running back Joseph Randle’s 18-yard run and passes of 12 and 16 yards from quarterback Alex Tanney to Randle and receiver Cole Beasley, respectively.
But the Cowboys could only turn it into a 38-yard field goal from Dan Bailey.
Quarterback Case Keenum then showed off the embarrassment of riches the Texans have at the quarterback position with him and T.J. Yates battling for the backup spot to idle starter Matt Schaub.
Keenum completed passes of 21, 8 and 15 yards before throwing a 27-yard touchdown pass to receiver Lestar Jean over rookie cornerback B.J. Webb, the Cowboys’ fourth-round pick.
With the Texans up 14-3 at halftime, Yates took over in the second half and led the offense to 10 points, including a 21-yard touchdown pass to Andy Cruse against Webb again.
The Cowboys had hoped to use the game to get an extended look at Tanney in an effort to determine whether to keep him on the roster as the third quarterback or try to get him through waivers to the practice squad.
Tanney didn’t do much to help his cause, completing 17 of 31 passes for 177 yards with an interception and no touchdown drives.
He was sacked six times and didn’t have much time to throw. For someone hoping for a big effort to make the roster, it wasn’t good enough.
Randle had 10 carries for 47 yards. Phillip Tanner started the game and ran six times for 35 yards.
The Cowboys finished the preseason with a 2-3 mark.
“It was hard for us to block them on offense,” Garrett said. “It was hard for Alex to get in any kind of rhythm throwing the football. It seemed like they were getting pressure for most of the night. It looked like he kept his composure. He just didn’t get in much of a rhythm.”