What Now at Quarterback?

While inquiring minds are still wondering about the Cowboys' murky quarterback situation and how Quincy Carter's strong performance in the 34-6 victory against the Texans impacts the decision, what we have learned is that coach Bill Parcells is just as hard on his team in victory as in defeat.

The Cowboys (1-1) looked like a different team in dismantling the Texans than they did a week earlier in a most distressing and disappointing loss to the Arizona Cardinals in the preseason opener.

In addition to Carter's 140 yards passing and one touchdown performance, the running game came to life with 141 yards on 28 carries, including eight for 38 by starting Troy Hambrick.

The Cowboys got big plays on offense with touchdown receptions of 30 and 60 yards from receivers Antonio Bryant and Randal Williams respectively and an 83-yard punt return touchdown from rookie Zuriel Smith to contribute to the team's highest point total in any game, regular season or preseason, in three years.

The defense stopped the Texans cold, holding them to 3.4 yards per play on the ground, two for 14 on third downs and limiting them to two field goals.

Yet, Parcells, who put the Cowboys through an intense week of practices and expected a better performance, wasn't pleased overall, harping on his team's eight penalties and two lost fumbles.

"It's just a start, something to build on," Parcells said. "It's a little encouraging for me. But I want a smart team and a smart team doesn't get eight penalties and turn the ball over twice. Dumb teams do that."

According to several players, he lambasted the team in post-game locker room following the game over the penalties and turnovers.

Curiously, in the wake of the team's meltdown to the Cardinals a week earlier, Parcells downplayed the impact of five penalties for 39 yards. Yet, eight for 51 against the Texans were cause for an eruption in an otherwise impressive outing.

Certainly, defensive tackle Daleroy Stewart was the source of much of Parcells' frustration. He was one of the players Parcells wanted to focus on during the game only to be yanked off the field following three offside penalties.

More than likely this was Parcells pulling psychological strings to keep his team on edge and focused, considering playing well against an undermanned Texans team isn't cause for celebration.

However, he couldn't deny certain team highlights in the game. Carter directed a 10-play, 96-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter, going perfect through the air with six completions to six different receivers.

A fumble on the ensuring kickoff set the Cowboys up 30 yards from pay dirt. Carter took advantage with a 30-yard touchdown pass to Bryant on the first play. Hambrick, who scored the earlier touchdown, aided the second one with key blitz pickup to give Carter more time to find Bryant.

"I think the biggest thing was when we got that turnover and cashed in right away," Parcells said. "We've got some firepower if we can get the ball to them. Our receivers are a pretty good group. We just have to find a way to get the ball to them."

Also exciting Parcells greatly was the Smith touchdown, as it prompted an exchange of high fives between the coach and owner Jerry Jones.

"The special teams touchdown was exciting to me," Parcells explained.

Remaining still unclear is what direction Parcells is leaning in the quarterback battle between Carter and Chad Hutchinson, who did not play against the Texans.

Carter entered the Texans game seemingly behind Hutchinson, who graded out better against the Cardinals.

But if Hutchinson was indeed the front-runner, how does not playing him help him and the offense get ready for the season?

Parcells says don't read any anything into the decision, maintaining he simply wanted to see Carter and get a more intense look at rookie Tony Romo, who is vying for the third-string job.

Carter didn't play perfectly, as he still has some misreads. But his strong performance, which featured no turnovers and movement skills that give him a decided edge over immobile Hutchinson, will keep him in the conversation for another week.

All totaled, Carter is 18 for 30 for 222 yards with one touchdown and one interception in two preseason games. He has rushed six times for 23 yards.

The question now is when and if we get will get to see Hutchinson, who was five of 10 for 43 yards against the Cardinals, again.

More than likely that will come this Thursday against the Steelers.

Parcells said he wasn't ready to evaluate Carter's performance until he looked at the film, but almost certainly was not ready to make a final decision.

"I don't know what I am going to do. It's not clear to me. I'm going to look at it and probably do something different next week."

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