Cowboys 27, Dolphins 25
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP)
David Buehler was going to be on the Dallas Cowboys this season, even if it was only to keep whacking kickoffs deep into the end zone.
Now the Cowboys feel good about him kicking field goals, too.
After not getting a chance for two weeks, Buehler made kicks from 51, 45 and 40 yards - all with plenty of room to spare - then nailed a 31-yarder as time expired to lift the Cowboys past the Miami Dolphins 27-25 in the preseason finale Thursday night.
''We've got us a kicker!'' crowed Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, hoping to avoid a repeat of last year's woes.
''What a game he had,'' added Dallas coach Wade Phillips. ''No matter what you say, the last kick to win the game is pressure in any game. I think that inspired our whole football team.''
Even Buehler feels inspired. This was his first last-second, game-winning field goal on any level.
''I'm glad I had the performance I did today and I'm glad I had the opportunities I had today,'' said Buehler, who was 6 of 7 the first two preseason games but became a curiosity as the 0 of 0s mounted. ''Going into the regular season, I couldn't have had a better game to get ready.''
Third-string quarterback Stephen McGee also gave the club reason to believe, throwing a perfect 43-yard touchdown pass to Sam Hurd against Miami's starting defense, then leading Dallas on a go-ahead drive midway through the fourth quarter, then again in the final 2 minutes.
McGee played the entire game, with Tony Romo and Jon Kitna watching from the sideline. He misfired on some relatively easy passes, but last year's fourth-round pick almost certainly secured a roster spot. He was 27 of 42 for 304 yards with a sack and no turnovers. He had a quarterback rating of 93.8.
''I've had a lot of critics, people who've told me I can't do whatever, so there was a lot of pressure on me to perform,'' he said. ''I know in my heart how good a quarterback I am.''
The Cowboys (3-2) used only one likely starter, fullback Deon Anderson, but held their own while the Dolphins (2-2) used many of their starters into the second quarter.
Dallas reserve linebacker Victor Butler showed how much he's learned after playing behind DeMarcus Ware last season, swatting two of Chad Henne's passes, then sending him to the bench for good with fumble-causing sacks on consecutive plays.
''When you get a chance to show what you can do against the other team's 1s, it makes you better in the coaches' eyes,'' Butler said. ''So when D-Ware needs a blow, you can come in and the defense doesn't miss a beat. That's what you want to do as a backup in this league.''
Henne was 6 of 11 for 53 yards. He led three drives, reaching the Dallas 7 on the opening series before settling for a 28-yard field goal. He also saw Ricky Williams go 42 yards up the middle on one of his two carries.
''We definitely wanted to improve on last week against the Falcons and I think in some areas we did,'' Henne said. ''We scored points on the first drive there, but obviously we want touchdowns. We need to protect the ball and score more points.''
Tyler Thigpen played the second half and was 10 of 18 for 160 yards and an interception. He also made things pretty interesting at the end of this meaningless game, when it was being contested almost entirely by deep reserves.
On his final two drives, Thigpen racked up 15 points, snatching the lead both times. He took the Dolphins 63 yards in eight plays, then 72 yards in seven plays, capping both with short touchdown passes. The latter was capped by a 2-point run.
McGee came through in the clutch, too.
He took Dallas on a 64-yard touchdown drive also capped by a 2-point conversion run, then a 70-yarder that ended with Buehler's winning kick.
''We know there are things we have to get better at,'' Miami coach Tony Sparano said. ''I know that. I just can't trust that we're going to put these (questions) to be bed.''
Tony Romo and the rest of the Cowboys' first-teamers suited up and went through warmups, then watched from the bench. They enjoyed this one more than any since the opener, between all the big plays and the fact the starting offense wasn't out there struggling to score.
Before the game, Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland and Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant shook hands and spoke for about a minute, seemingly having patched things up since Ireland asked during a pre-draft interview whether Bryant's mother was a prostitute. Ireland already had apologized, but this was their first face-to-face meeting since.
Notes: Miami's Jake Long, the starting left tackle, left with a knee injury. He was treated on a table behind the bench and didn't return. ... The Cowboys didn't have any injuries. Rookie safety Akwasi Owusu-Ansah walked away from a punt return in which he was clotheslined and lost his helmet, then later intercepted Thigpen.