Cowboys 16, Bengals 7: My Top 10 Observations

10. Man, what a letdown. You spend all weekend talking about and listening to and watching highlights of Emmitt Smith and Super Bowls and football immortals. Then they kick off the Hall of Fame game and you get Cowboys 16, Bengals 7. It's like going to the theater and being titillated by previews of Caddyshack and Pulp Fiction before the main-event showing of Waterworld.

9. I take it back. Alex Barron has no shot to beat out Doug Free at starting left tackle.

8. Tony Romo looked decent, but he missed a wide open Roy Williams in the end zone on the opening drive. I'll criticize Williams harshly when warranted, but he badly beat Pacman Jones on a slant only to have Romo's double-clutch throw sail way over his head.

7. Biggest play of the night was an interception return for a touchdown by Brandon Sharpe, an undrafted rookie from Texas Tech given little or no shot to make the final roster. Yep, it's still early August.

6. Big braggadocio morning for University of Texas fans. Jordan Shipley takes a punt back 63 yards and the orange bloods get to yell "See! I toldja he's the next Wes Welker!!" Yawn.

5. This just in: Terrell Owens is an idiot. These days he's saying it's clear he should still be a Cowboy. Really? Evidenced by their playoff victory last year and the emergence of Miles Austin, I think they're just fine. But here's the real brain-dead head-scratcher: "I think if Jerry had the ultimate decision I'd be there." T.O. played three seasons in Dallas and somehow thinks Jones doesn't have final authority on oh, I dunno, everything? Dolt.

4. This weird, sorta uncomfortable thought struck me while watching the Hall of Fame pomp 'n circumstance: Were the '90s Cowboys actually underachievers? Think about it. In the same offensive huddle they had four Hall of Famers in Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin and Larry Allen. On defense they boasted will-be Hall of Famers Charles Haley, Deion Sanders and potential candidate Darren Woodson. They were coached by a maybe HOFer Jimmy Johnson and owned by a certain inductee Jerry Jones. Given that pedigree, three Super Bowls rings kind of hollow. No?

3. Kicker David Buehler made three of four field goals but badly hooked his miss from 49 yards. Good, but not good enough. Uncertainty persists.


2. Give the first-team offense credit for its 14-play drive. I know it stalled at the Bengals' 5, but come regular season I guarantee one of those passes to Williams would've gone the way of tight end Jason Witten. Yes the Cowboys - who last year were second in yards but 14th in points - need to improve in the red zone. But let's not get alarmed by vanilla failure in the pre-season opener.

1. Bummer about backup tight end John Phillips. The kid that was better than Martellus Bennett last season was having a dazzling training camp, but last night he apparently tore an ACL in his knee is out for the season. Now the Cowboys must count on Marty B, which is always a dicey proposition. That's the thing about Jones petitioning for a fifth pre-season game on his San Antonio/Canton/Valley Ranch/Oxnard hats-'n-shirts training camp: One more game means a 25-percent increase in the chance of an injury. Losing Phillips stings.

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