Romo tosses two TDs in Cowboys win over Bengals

ARLINGTON, Texas — Finally, in their fourth preseason game, the Cowboys’ first team offense scored a touchdown.

It wasn’t always pretty, but the starting offense was a bright spot for the Cowboys in Saturday’s 24-18 over Cincinnati.

The starters played the first two quarters and managed 14 points and 167 yards against the Bengals’ first-team defense.

It was the first extensive action for the first team in what is traditionally the “dress rehearsal” game before the season kicks off for real.

“It was good to finally play a half and be able to execute into the second quarter,” quarterback Tony Romo said. “The guys did a great job against a really good defense and that was really good to see.”

It was especially good considering the Cowboys shuffled their offensive line in the week leading up to the game. Because of injuries at guard, starting right tackle Doug Free was moved inside to right guard for the game.

That bumped starting right guard Mackenzy Bernadeu over to left guard, and backup Jermey Parnell got the start at right tackle.

The switch might only be an experiment, but Romo survived it without getting killed. It didn’t start out well, though, as Romo was sacked by an unblocked linebacker on the first offensive play of the game.

Romo was sacked again later in the half, although he basically sacked himself by appearing to take a dive in a collapsing pocket.

The running game didn’t show much improvement with the line shuffle. The Cowboys still struggled to get yards on the ground when they needed them most.

Gifted with a second-and-two at the Cincinnati 36, it took the Cowboys three cracks into the line to convert the first down.

Overall, the Cowboys finished with 45 rushing yards in the first half on 18 attempts, an average of 2.5 yards a carry. Backup Phillip Tanner gained 39 of the yards as starter DeMarco Murray was apparently benched after fumbling.

“I think there were some positive things in the first half,” coach Jason Garrett said. “Obviously we controlled the ball and did a good job of scoring in the red zone.”

The Cowboys also did a good job of holding onto the ball, especially in light of last week’s six-turnover debacle at Arizona. The Cowboys didn’t commit a turnover while forcing four: two fumbles and two interceptions.

The bright spot of the first half was the play of receiver Dez Bryant, who continues to signal this could be a huge year for him. Bryant caught six passes for 54 yards and a touchdown, often snatching balls from Romo that no one else could get to.

The first scoring drive show just how much Romo and Bryant are in synch..

Bryant caught five passes for 54 yards and a touchdown on a drive that covered 87 yards in 12 plays.

Bryant capped the drive with a terrific back-shoulder catch in the end zone on a third-down play that started at the Bengals’ five.

The first team scored again just before halftime, but this time Miles Austin worked into the mix at receiver. Austin caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from Romo on a crossing pattern in the back of the end zone.

Austin finished with four catches for 59 yards, including a 23-yarder.

“Dez had a great night, Miles did great,” Romo said. “I think we are continuing to get better and doing that every day since training camp. I think you can tell that we are doing some good things.”

The good things included the first-team offense scoring on both red-zone opportunities and just getting some confidence by getting into the end zone.

With most of the starters likely to be held out of Thursday’s preseason finale with Houston, the first-team offense has something to feel good about before curtain rises for real against the Giants.

Follow Keith Whitmire on Twitter: @Keith_Whitmire