Who's Hot? Who's Not? Dallas-Houston

A review of Saturday's preseason Game 3, a 28-16 Cowboys loss in Houston – especially crafted for football fans who don't find exhibition games boring.

HOT: Boring? No if you are a Cowboys fan who knows that Game 3 of the preseason is the most serious of summer dress rehearsals. Besides, what else is going on in sports in August? Well, the other night we could have witnessed a WNBA playoff game that goes to TRIPLE overtime! What could be better than that? Well, a WNBA playoff game that goes to double OT, for one thing.

And ANY exhibition NFL game, for another.

However. …

NOT: Just because it wasn't boring football doesn't mean it was good football. Dallas experienced breakdowns in every facet. Incompetence on offense, incompetence on defense, and for the hat trick, on special teams, we got a missed extra point and a 91-yard punt return for a TD allowed.

NOT: That dress-rehearsal thing? Dallas played first-teamers all the way into the fourth quarter. We know this wasn't a gameplan-condition outing (though try telling that to the Broncos!).

NOT: Anybody can get hurt this time of year; Drew Carey got hurt hosting 'The Price Is Right,' we hear, because Bob Barker tried to spay or neuter him. So let's make a big deal of the fact that Dallas is without cornerback Terence Newman – and a bigger deal of the fact that the severity of his injury seems a matter of debate. And while we're worrying, let's note that coach Wade Phillips went out of his way to trash the backup CBs who took turns trying to fill T-Newman's shoes.

NOT: Speaking of the challenging task of doing TV: Cowboys media personality Mickey Spagnola noted on the telecast after two Cowboys offensive-line penalties that because Phillips wanted to see how his team would react to its first road game, the miscues were "a good thing.''

We're all for positive spin. But Mick – who certainly does his homework – must know that Wade will only look at the road experience as "a good thing'' if the experience is postive.

NOT: You can believe Tony Romo's stats (14 of 22, 197 yards, two TDs and a pick) or you can believe your eyes. Romo was not sharp, with too many errant throws and two bobbles of snaps typifying his evening.

Not to be too cynical, but THIS is as good a reason as any for Jerry Jones to be patient as Romo's contract discussions proceed.

HOT: I know I mention this on a weekly basis, but this Cowboys team seems TOGETHER – even, we now know, in defeat. Compare it with, say, the Falcons. There's an interview with Michael Vick's father, who says dogfighting has "always been Mike's thing.'' and there's an interview in a Sports Illustrated article in which Falcons teammates question Mike's intelligence.

Compare that to Jason Witten's (relatively minor) problem with his mom. And Cowboys teammates' potential issues with one another. This team has a family atmosphere and closed mouths. If you're waiting for, say, Terrell Owens to pop off because the Cowboys lost, you're wait continues. Meanwhile, in Atlanta, well. … Geez. With friends (and Dads) like Vick has, who needs enemies?

HOT: By the way, T.O. was spectacular on his 35-yard catch-and-run TD. And explosive Sam Hurd and reliable Patrick Crayton were pretty solid, too.

NOT: Hey, if starting defensive ends Spears and Canty are going to take gamedays off, can they at least alternate? Really, do they have to be on vacation in the same game?

HOT: Forgetting this outcome for a moment. … Dallas' chances in the NFC East, especially given Philly's in-house troubles, make the Cowboys a HOT. McNabb and some of the fellas are upset about the Trotter release. … should they just trust coach Andy Reid? Well, if you're an Eagles fan, do you trust Reid to oversee 53 young men at work when he can't supervise two young men at home? Or, if you think that's too harsh, how about this: If you were Andy Reid, wouldn't you consider resigning from the Eagles in order to get your kids in line/in rehab/in by curfew?

There might just be a void in the NFC East – a void Dallas might just be able to fill.

NOT: Yes, I know, Demarcus Ware says he's targeting the all-time sack record of 23. But when he said it, he kind of stumbled and stuttered, like he himself wasn't sure what he was even saying. I say let's not worry about records. Let's just worry about effectiveness. He did record a hurry, but otherwise did nothing here.

NOT: We still believe that on the whole, this offensive line is coming together much sooner than it usually does. In the past we would've been looking everywhere for Dallas O-line help -- we'd be watching some Little League World Series stuff wondering which part of "Little'' don't these massive pitchers understand? Why don't they come try out at Valley Ranch? – but no longer. Nevertheless, the penalties. … the lack of a running game (just 57 yards). … not good.

NOT: Marion Barber III's new agent is none other than the notorious Drew Rosenhaus. This might be troubling news for the Cowboys, who will have to deal with the obnoxious blowhard. But, honestly, it's good news for MB3, because if you're a stud, Drew gets you your money.

However, somebody probably needs to remind MB3 that he's not a dancer. That he's a brusier. Maybe Drew can tell him.

NOT: Meanwhile, while Dallas couldn't run, Houston tore up the Cowboys' front seven. The Texans totaled 142 rushing yards (at a 5.5-yards-per clip). Maybe Jason Ferguson played well upfront, and Kevin Burnett seemed active. But otherwise, a lot of blame to go around here.

NOT: Can we sneak in another Vick-related observation here? Lots of smart-ass commentators are making "Michael-Vick-in-prison-will-have-unwanted-boyfriends'' jokes. Call me naïve, but I bet Vick – a multi-millionaire QB, a leader of men, a rock star, a badass, an icon among some in the black community – will be the king of the yard. So let's reserve those jokes for the likes of Tim Donaghy.

HOT: As promised: It will be Donaghy, not Vick, who will learn new meanings for the terms "Over/Under'' and "Cover the Spread.''

NOT: We've finally got ourselves some separation in the kicker competition. It was veteran Martin Gramatica who missed the early-on extra point. Then Martin botched a kickoff – and apparently injured his hammy while doing so. Rookie Nick Folk may end up winning this thing by default.

NOT: We just can't believe the Governor's Cup has once again escaped our grasp!

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