ARLINGTON — Cowboys fans arriving for the team's dress rehearsal against the Bengals Saturday night had their own ideas of what to expect.
"I think they're holding back," said Jeff Paul of North Richland Hills. "Maybe that's what it is. They don't want to show their hand. We'll see."
"I hope they cut down on their turnovers, that's the biggest thing," said Karen Shaw from Austin.
"They're going to get rid of the guys that are slacking and they're going to put the good guys in," added Frisco resident Angela Patterson.
"Well, you're never where you want to be," said Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett. "It's always a work in progress. We've got a lot of work in front of us. I'm really proud of how our guys have worked through training camp."
The first team offense showed a surprisingly balanced attack — 18 running plays and 18 passing in the first half, producing not only the first touchdown of the preseason, but the second of the preseason by the first team as well.
However, when running back DeMarco Murray fumbled on the team's second possession, he was pulled for the rest of the first half as head coach Jason Garrett sent a firm message.
"Absolutely, the ball was on the ground," said Garrett. "The ball cannot be on the ground, and he understood why. We talked to him about it, and I thought he responded well to it."
"There is no question that we had a little in-house resolve about what we'd do if we should turn the ball over, and so I think Jason is making a point," said Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
Murray was unavailable for comment after the game. Also unavailable was quarterback Tony Romo, who left the stadium, but then was summoned to answer questions on a speakerphone, creating a bizarre scene in the coach's dressing room.
"When they had me give quotes at halftime, I thought that's what we did," Romo said from his car. "I was under the assumption that we wouldn't talk afterward. We have to tell Scotty not to get quotes at halftime if I'm talking afterward. I blame Scotty."
"Scotty" is Scott Agulnek of the Cowboys public relations staff. After the offensive line let Romo get sacked on the very first play of the game, he turned in his best night of the preseason, completing 13 of 18 passes for 137 yards, with a quarterback rating of 131.
Dez Bryant continued his outstanding training camp with six catches for 54 yards and a touchdown.
"I feel like i'm just getting better by the week, all of us," Bryant said. "We've got to practice, try to raise the intensity level high each and every day. We're just trying to go out there and execute these plays the best way that we can, and I think we're going out there and we're doing that."
The Cowboys defense continued to build on its ability to create turnovers, recovering two fumbles and getting two interceptions. That's nine turnovers in four preseason games, only seven short of last year's regular season total of 16.
"Today was a good start for us," said Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr. "Now the bar is set. We see that we can do it. We have the guys in the locker room that can not only make the tackle, but break the ball out, and we have the guys that swarm. It's all about max effort — the will to want to do it and guys hustling to get to the ball."
"The turnovers led to the win tonight, and we know if we want to win football games in the future and want to be a great defense, we have to find a way to get turnovers," said Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee.
"I'm very excited about the way we played," defensive tackle Jason Hatcher added. "We really honed in on getting the ball away, and that just increases your chances of winning. We've just got to keep doing that, and hopefully we can bring it into week one."
It wasn't a perfect night, but in the end, the results were good.
The offense left feeling good about what they accomplished. The defense left the turf with lots of confidence.
Next up: The fifth and final preseason game against the Houston Texans on Thursday night at AT&T Stadium.