Top 10 Impressions: Dallas-Denver

And remember, "impressions'' don't necessarily mean we were "impressed'' from Saturday night's 23-13 preseason loss in Denver. (pictured left: second-round draft pick Martellus Bennett)

10. The special teams – not exactly stellar last week in San Diego – carried a huge load Saturday. The individual talent is certainly there: Tashard Choice showed want-to when he blocked a punt, Isaiah Stanback and Orlando Scandrick looked like viable kick returners, Pacman Jones is an edge-of-your-seat punt returner, and Dallas' kicking tandem of Nick Folk and Mat McBriar is nothing short of stellar. They waste kick opportunities like they waste letters in their names (two men, 18 letters. … not exactly Vanderjagtian, in any regard).

9. Brad Johnson looked almost competent. Do not be seduced.

8. Martellus Bennett finally did something good. And then he probably spent the entire bus ride to the airport, the entire flight to DFW and the entire drive home in his car boasting about having done something good.

Hey, Big Fella: Your effusive nature will end up growing on Cowboys fans AFTER you actually accomplish something. Now? It seems like your boastful attitude is nothing more than an effort to convince yourself that you belong.

7. Kudos to Miles Austin for emerging as a go-and-get-it receiver on this squad. People who watched him in college are not surprised. Let's hope his sprained knee (an MRI is forthcoming) is nothing much more than that.

6. That penalty thing had better get fixed. … NOW.

There is no singular "right way'' to correct this problem. Chan Gailey used to make guys run laps. Seemed silly. Bill Parcells used to bitch about it. Seemed sillier. Now there is the notion that Wade Phillips' softness is the reason for the errors. Seems silliest.

This is on the athletes – and it always has been. It's a matter of concentration and intensity and discipline. If we're snapping the ball on the second "hut,'' you don't move until the second "hut.'' Laps, bitching and hugs won't do it for you. YOU do it for you.

5. Judging by their highlight efforts in this game, a head-on crash between defensive weapon Zach Thomas and offensive weapon Deon Anderson would be a Super Collider. No wonder the two of them are so compressed; by the time their careers are over, both guys will probably be trash-compacted down to 5-foot-3.

4. After Pacman's 24-yard punt return, he excitedly (defiantly?) spiked the ball, earning the Cowboys (yet another) penalty. The fellas at reacted by downplaying the flag. "Big deal,'' they wrote.

I feel like I must be 1,000 years old. Because I believe – as I have for the better part of 1,000 years – that returning a punt for plus-yards, and then capping the effort with an unforced error that largely negates those plus-yards IS a big deal. A big, stupid, immature, undisciplined, unproductive, arrogant deal.

3. A built-in excuse? This has been a loooooong road trip. Camp in Oxnard, a road game in San Diego, more camp in Denver, a road game in Denver. Maybe the Cowboys run a "Camp Cupcake'' or "Camp Marshmallow'' or "Camp Sugar Plum'' or whatever dessert snack Coach Wade has dancing in his head. But there is something grueling about being away from home for this extended period. A smart bet: Things will be much crisper this week in Dallas. (Especially if we continue to be treated to these 87-degree days!)

2. Young defensive coordinator Brian Stewart reportedly received emails last summer from opposing coaches suggesting that him calling blitzes during the 2007 preseason was a breach of etiquette. A valid point then, and now – and a reason to not be overly concerned about an 0-2 start. If you believe in the ability of this coaching staff, and you believe that its ingenuity is hamstrung by Vanilla Summers, then you assume that Phillips, Stewart, Garrett & Co. will find a second gear once September starts.

1.Quote from Bradie James: "It's good to have a game like this so we can battle back. …''

That's not a popular opinion – certainly not from your sofa, we bet – but it is an accurate one. The training-camp portion of the calendar is winding down, and with it the press clippings and the magazine covers and the SportsCenter bloviation (if not the "Hard Knocks'' hullabaloo.) The occasional failure might lead to a team-wide training-table meal of humble pie.

Remember, though, Cowboys. … we said occasional failure.

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