SEATTLE – Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo could enter the regular season with the fewest preseason snaps he has had since becoming the starter.
After injuring his back on the third play of Thursday’s 27-17 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Romo’s preseason will consist of just 16 snaps if he does not play in the Sept. 1 preseason finale against the Houston Texans. Romo, 36, has not played in a preseason finale since becoming the full-time starter in 2007.
Romo played 13 snaps in the Cowboys’ second preseason game Aug. 19 against the Miami Dolphins. In three drives, he has completed 5 of 6 passes for 60 yards.
Since undergoing offseason back surgery in 2013, the Cowboys have been mindful of Romo’s preseason work. In 2013, he played in 69 preseason snaps in three games. In 2014, he played in 50 snaps in two games. Last season he played in 24 in two games.
The Cowboys rely heavily on Romo. As he goes, they go. They have gone 15-4 with him as the starter the past two seasons and 1-12 without him. He missed 12 games last season because of a twice-broken left collarbone.
Despite having surgery on his collarbone in March, the Cowboys believed Romo was in his best physical condition since the first back surgery in 2013.
That now comes into question before the Sept. 11 season opener against the New York Giants.
All about Elliott: As deflating as Romo’s injury was, Ezekiel Elliott‘s debut was encouraging. The No. 4 overall draft pick played 15 snaps in his debut and carried seven times for 48 yards. He showed speed in getting to the edge for nine yards. He showed vision in breaking through the front seven for another nine. He showed no fear in seeking out safety Kam Chancellor on a 13-yard gain. In the one pass thrown in his direction, Chancellor was flagged for unnecessary roughness for hitting Elliott well after the ball was on the ground. Elliott also was able to handle pass-protection responsibilities as a blocker as well. The Ohio State product showed a feistiness, jawing with several Seattle defenders as the Cowboys matched the Seahawks’ physicality with some of their own.
Real world: Dak Prescott knew he would start the preseason opener and knew he would take over for Romo in the second preseason game after a series or two. Thursday offered up a real-world scenario in which he was thrust into action after just three snaps. Playing behind the first-team offensive line in the first half, the rookie completed 15 of 19 passes for 106 yards with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Jason Witten on his second series. “He comes in and shows great poise,” Witten said. “He trusts his players, and he trusts the system. Coach [and offensive coordinator Scott] Linehan does a great job with him. The situation and circumstances are not too big for him.” Prescott finished the game 17-of-23 for 116 yards and carried twice for 12 yards.
Who got hurt? Maybe you read about Romo’s back injury. A four-hour flight back home cannot be comfortable with a sore back.
Good to see them: Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith made his preseason debut after missing the first two games because of a stinger. Chaz Green took over at left tackle in the second quarter, but Smith wanted to get some preseason snaps under his belt. Defensive end Benson Mayowa and defensive tackle Maliek Collins opened training camp on the physically unable to perform list, but they were able to start against the Seahawks. It was the third different starting defensive line in three preseason games. Linebacker Justin Durant also made his preseason debut after the Cowboys slowly worked the veteran into condition after signing him before training camp.
One reason to be concerned, beside Romo: Situational defense matters. After the Cowboys took a 7-0 lead after Prescott’s fifth touchdown pass of the preseason, the defense gave up a scoring drive to Seattle. It was only a field goal, and they did a nice job of tightening up in the red zone, but coordinator Rod Marinelli does not like to give up points in a possession after the Cowboys score. The Cowboys’ backups were manhandled in the third quarter, giving up 10 points to the Seahawks’ first-team offense and another touchdown later to the backups.
Missed opportunity: One knock on Terrance Williams over the years has been the receiver’s willingness to catch the ball with his body instead of his hands. He missed a chance for a deep completion from Prescott when he did not extend his arms, choosing to let the ball come to his body. The Seattle defender was beaten but Prescott was not able to lead Williams down the field in stride. Still, Williams had time and space to adjust for the ball and could not come up with it.
Quite a grab: Witten’s 17-yard touchdown grab from Prescott in the first quarter was an eye-opener because of how he reached over Seattle linebacker K.J. Wright. Prescott’s throw was dangerous, but he noticed Wright’s head was turned so he looked to drop it over Witten’s shoulder. It was underthrown, but Witten was able to reach over and through the linebacker for the catch. The coaches must have been impressed, because Witten’s night was over after that drive.