Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory sacked Arizona quarterback Sam Bradford to end the Cardinals first possession on Sunday night, giving the Dallas fans something to cheer about early on in the third preseason game of this campaign.
But those kinds of highlights were sparse in the first 30 minutes of action as Arizona took a 17-0 lead to halftime.
Dallas quarterback Cooper Rush, starting in place of Dak Prescott and operating behind a makeshift offensive line, didn’t fare well. He threw two interceptions, including one that Arizona’s Patrick Peterson returned for a 30-yard pick-6.
Rush completed 11 of 17 passes for 93 yards before the break. He failed to get the Cowboys into the end zone or even manage a field goal. But the worst stat might have been that Dallas moved the chains just twice in the first and second quarters combined.
Throw in a Rod Smith fumble and two muffed punts by Lance Lenoir and it was a thoroughly forgettable first half for the Cowboys offense.
Not to worry, though. It will be easy to forget.
The Cowboys rested Prescott, running back Ezekiel Elliott and left tackle Tyron Smith. Starting right guard Zack Martin didn’t play with a knee injury that isn’t expected to keep him out of the season opener. Starting center Travis Frederick began treatment for Guillain-Barre Syndrome in the last few days and his availability is less clear going forward. That’s five starters — and very important ones at that — who were spectators on Sunday night. When this thing goes live in a couple of weeks, many of them will be in there and it will make a big difference.
The glass-half-full perspective was that the Cowboys’ defense continued to impress.
Although Dallas gave up 17 points in the first half, only three were on the Cowboys’ D. Cardinals kicker Phil Dawson booted a 42-yard field goal midway through the second quarter.
The Cowboys surrendered just four first downs and 105 total yards in the first half. Gregory showed up and showed out, as did cornerback Chidobe Awuzie and linebacker Joe Thomas.
The only negative for the Dallas defense was that safety Kavon Frazier left the game with a left shoulder injury.