Cowboys Drop HoF Preseason Opener to Pittsburgh 16-3

cowboys HOF preseaspn opener
Cowboys vs Steelers in Preseason opener August 5th, 2021

The Cowboys revamped defense got to show off one of the newest acquisitions in first-round pick Micah Parsons in the first series of the preseason Hall of Fame game matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The linebacker recovered a fumble caused when the Steelers QB Mason Rudolph mismanaged a hand-off at the Steelers 48. Parsons dove on the loose ball and held on to it on the bottom of the pile.

The turnover set up the Dallas offense. Garrett Gilbert got the start under center and he was efficient in his performance. He completed X of Y passes with no interceptions. His final play in the game resulted in a fumble he was fortunate to see bounce into the arms of a Dallas lineman. Gilbert’s longest pass of the game was a 21 yard pass on first and 10 from the Dallas 11 yard line.

The extra reps Gilbert is getting in camp while starting QB Dak Prescott rehabs a shoulder strain could be seen in the chemistry between the prospective backup QB and his receivers.

Prescott addressed the shoulder injury at halftime with Fox correspondent Terry Bradshaw. Prescott said the team is treating the injury with an overabundance of caution. Prescott is not expected to throw passes for up to several weeks while the injury heals.

The lone first half points came on a chip-shot 29-yard field goal from second-year kicker Hunter Niswander. The kicker had a second 29-yard try blocked at the end of the first quarter, ending a promising drive that began at the Dallas 10 yard line. Niswander missed a 52-yard attempt at the end of the second quarter.

The first-half defensive showing by the Cowboys appears to be an improvement over a season ago. The defense lost several key starters and Pro-Bowl players last season and opposing offenses took advantage. The defense was able to shut down efforts by the Steelers in the Hall of Fame game in the first half. They forced two punts, a missed 49-yard field goal, and recovered the first-possession fumble.

Cowboys fans got to see Cooper Rush in action in the first half. He threw 8 for 13, 70-yards in two drives. The first drive ended in the first missed field goal by Dallas. The second drive ended in a fumble after hitting wide receiver Malik Turner across the middle. The Steelers recovered but could only advance 16 yards before punting.

Ben DeNucci came in at quarterback in the second half. He struggled at times to get enough time behind the line to accurately throw passes. DiNucci took a four-yard sack in his first series leading to the first Dallas punt of the game. DiNucci showed off his speed late in the fourth with a 27-yard scamper to give the Cowboys a shot at a last-second score.

A 36-yard return erased much of a Cowboys 54-yard punt and set the Steelers up for their first points of the game. Steelers running back Kalen Ballage forced his way into the end zone from four yards out. Kicker Sam Slomane, who struggled all night when given the opportunity, missed the ensuing extra point.

The Cowboys offense sputtered out in the third quarter and never regained momentum. The best drive of the half covered 54 yards. DiNucci nailed a 36-yard pass to wide receiver Aaron Parker. The drive stalled after an offensive holding penalty on first and 10.

The defense gave up a total of 16 points to the second- and third-string Steelers offense all in the second half. Sloman hit a 48-yarder in the third quarter and added the extra point to a five yard touchdown pass in the fourth. A special teams blunder by Cowboys wide receiver Reggie Davis set the Steelers up with a short field late in the fourth, but the defense held and forced an incomplete pass on fourth and one from the Dallas five.

Even though the game doesn’t have season implications, it was a great opportunity for young players trying to make teams and get some time on the field to show off their stuff. The Cowboys will travel to Arizona to face the Cardinals on Friday August 13.

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