opener, the things that mattered most to the Dallas Cowboys was the performance
of their young players and the adherence to the points of emphasis the team has
focused on since the start of training camp.
Consider the 24-20 victory over the Miami Dolphins in the Hall of Fame Game at
Fawcett Field a huge success in terms of the Cowboys' mission to force more
turnovers and run the ball better and more this season.
The Cowboys jumped to a 17-0 lead, thanks to 97 rushing yards on 17
carries in the first half, including 10 rushes for 59 yards and a touchdown by
Phillip Tanner and two forced turnovers that led to two touchdowns. The second
touchdown came on a 75-yard interception return for a score by rookie linebacker
"Turnovers were the name of the game in the first half. We took
the ball away from them on their first offensive play and went down and had a
real short drive inside the 10," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "The
interception by Holloman for a touchdown was a big play in the game. I thought
we ran it pretty well and the defense played pretty well situationally."
The success on the ground was huge for a Cowboys offense that was the
worst in team history last season in terms of rushing yards and rushing
Certainly, the absence of quarterback Romo and starting receivers Dez
Bryant and Miles Austin as well as Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten made a huge
difference in the play-calling. Still, not only did the Cowboys run it more than
they passed in the first half - 17 rushes to 10 attempts - but they had
tremendous success doing it without starter DeMarco Murray.
Tanner set the tone with his effort, namely his two tackle-breaking runs
of 17 yards. But he wasn't alone. All the Cowboys backs ran well.
Lance Dunbar opened the game as the starting running back, rushing four
times for 22 yards. And rookie Joseph Randle, who was considered the favorite to
be the backup to Murray, showed he wasn't going to be left behind with three
carries for 16 yards in the first half.
Randle also added eight carries for 48 yards in the third quarter alone
to finish with 13 carries for 70 yards to lead all rushers.
Undrafted rookie free agent Kendial Lawrence added a 7-yard touchdown
"Just coming out here and making the best of every opportunity," Tanner
said. "Coach Garrett preaches that to us all the time, whether it is one play or
100 plays, make the best of every snap."
The highlights of the night were the turnovers on defense.
The Cowboys recorded a paltry 16 in 16 games last season and it was one
reason the Cowboys fired defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and made the change from
the 3-4 to the 4-3 scheme under new defensive chief Monte Kiffin.
Kiffin, along with defensive line coach Rod Marinelli, have a history of
forcing turnovers in the famed Tampa Two scheme. They have harped on going after
the ball and returning it for touchdowns since the start of the off -season
Their messages came across loud and clear against the Dolphins, even
without defensive stalwarts such as DeMarcus Ware, Sean Lee and Bruce Carter.
Linebacker Justin Durant was the only defensive starter who played against the
Dolphins, and he was just out there for a series.
The Cowboys took advantage of a poor handoff from quarterback Ryan
Tannehill on Miami's first offensive play. Defensive tackle Nick Hayden
recovered the ball on the 9-yard line, leading to Tanner's 1-yard run.
After the Cowboys went up 10-0 on a 49-yard field goal by Dan Bailey,
Holloman made it 17-0 with his pick six.
A pass from Matt Moore tipped off the hands of receiver Chad Bumphus and
the seventh-round pick from South Carolina showed the playmaking skills of a
former safety. He took the ball out of the air facing the Dolphins, reversed
direction and romped 75 yards to the end zone, while fending off a hard-charging
Moore with a stiff arm.