It is dangerous to put too much stock into who wins or loses a preseason game.
Teams are working on chemistry and execution more than doing whatever it takes to wind up with more points on the scoreboard when the final whistle sounds, so it is best to view the games through that prism. Still, it is hard not to look at the final score from Sunday night's game as a meaningful sign for the Cowboys.
The Cowboys lost to the Chargers 20-7 because they made more mistakes than the visiting side on Sunday. They turned the ball over three times and forced none. They were penalized seven times for 68 yards, with a few of those penalties overturning big plays by the offense. That is a formula for losing games in the preseason, regular season, postseason and playing Madden on an X-Box.
The loss, in and of itself, holds very little meaning. The journey to the loss matters a great deal, however. The ugliness of the mistakes dominated that journey, but plenty of other things -- good, bad and ugly -- happened along the way.
GOOD: Felix Jones is ready to be the "bell cow" that the Cowboys need him to be this season. Jones ran for 56 yards on seven carries, flashing the combination of deft footwork and lowered shoulders that you need to thrive as a feature back. He even showed some pass blocking ability to make it a winning night all around.
BAD: Dez Bryant's drop on a third down pass killed a promising Cowboys drive in the first half. Bryant was hard on himself after the game, which is probably a good thing given how easy it would be to excuse the drop on preseason rustiness.
UGLY: Tony Romo tried to force a pass to Kevin Ogletree, leading to an Eric Weddle interception and another thwarted drive. Romo had some good moments on Sunday, but the interception looked far too familiar to come away from the night feeling good.
GOOD: The defense looks like it is starting to take on the shape of their coordinator. Rob Ryan sent blitzes from all over the place, creating pressure on Philip Rivers from the opening drive of the game.
BAD: That aggressiveness leaves defensive backs on their own to make plays and the Cowboys secondary didn't get it done on Sunday. They got beat on a long pass to Vincent Jackson and lost tight end Randy McMichael in the end zone for an easy Chargers touchdown. They really need to get Mike Jenkins and Terrence Newman back so they can figure out what they have in the secondary.
UGLY: The starting offensive linemen were responsible for some of those damaging penalties, but they were still a lot better than the second-stringers. The Cowboys depth up front is quite suspect after watching the reserves give up far too much pressure to the Chargers on both passing and running plays.
GOOD: Phillip Tanner's helmetless run to the end zone didn't wind up counting, but it is hard not to be impressed with how hard he ran on the play. With Lonyae Miller taking another step backward by fumbling, Tanner could be fighting for a roster spot. He picked a good way to show his mettle.
BAD: Marcus Spears hurt his groin and might miss the next preseason game. Injuries have been far too big a part of the story for the Cowboys thus far, so they really didn't need any more on that particular plate.
UGLY: Dan Bailey's opening kickoff was awful and neither he nor David Buehler got a field goal attempt. It is hard to pick a kicker when they have few opportunities and don't do much well when given the chance.
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