OXNARD, Calif. (AP) — Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys have to get a lot better in a hurry.
The Cowboys’ 3-0 victory over Oakland in the preseason opener made one thing very clear: There is a lot of work to do in the three weeks before they play the NFL’s regular-season kickoff game at the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
“We’ve just got to execute more offensively. That’s what we’ve got to focus on,” tight end Jason Witten said. “We’ve got all the other stuff: playing hard, communication. We’ve got to execute.”
The Cowboys (No. 15 in AP Pro32) had only one first down in the three series Romo played Monday night, gaining 22 yards on 11 plays. That first down came on a leaping 24-yard catch by Dez Bryant on their second offensive snap, which means they had minus-2 yards in Romo’s other 10 plays. That included a sack and three incompletions.
“We wanted more. We made some mistakes and it cost us. There will be some good stuff to evaluate and get better,” Romo said. “I think we made a couple of mental errors. When you get behind the chains, it’s very difficult to overcome that situation. Sacks and penalties just put you behind. You can’t have two or three of those in a two- to three-drive span.”
Dallas was back at its California training camp complex with a day off Tuesday. Practice resumes Wednesday, and the next game is Saturday night at San Diego (No. 16).
David Arkin had never snapped in a game before being forced into the starting role against the Raiders. The back stiffness that forced expected starting center Phil Costa to miss the preseason opener isn’t considered serious and he could be back at practice this week.
Sure, Rob Ryan’s defense didn’t allow any points. It was a good start, but with a scaled-down scheme against a Raiders offense also not being too complex in the first preseason game — a Monday night game for all to see on ESPN.
“I have seen worse TV,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said.
For the league’s midweek regular-season opener in New York on Sept. 5, the Cowboys will be at the same stadium where they lost their last game that counted. The New Year’s Day loss in New York, in the NFL’s final game of the last regular season, left Dallas 8-8 and out of the playoffs. The division rival Giants went on to win the Super Bowl.
In their 52-year history, the Cowboys had never won a 3-0 game before Monday night. The only points came on Dan Bailey’s 33-yard field goal after backup quarterback Kyle Orton drove Dallas 67 yards on the opening drive of the second half.
The Cowboys will break camp in Oxnard after a walkthrough Friday. They will stay in San Diego after the game for two days of work with the Chargers next week before returning Texas for the rest of camp and their last two preseason games.
“It was good to get back out there. It’s been a long offseason thinking about the way it ended last year,” Witten said after the preseason opener. “This kind of kicks it off. Training camp is good, but this kind of kicks off the start of us. We’ve got a long way to go.”