8-7-07 - Wade Phillips' first game coaching the Dallas Cowboys opened with a pass to Terrell Owens and ended with a victory over the Super Bowl champs.
Sure, it was only preseason, but that didn't stop Phillips from enjoying his team's 23-10 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday night.
"I thought it was a pretty good first outing," Phillips said. "It's not a regular-season game, but it's nice to come in and play well at home, which you need to establish, and not turn the ball over and not let them run the ball. So I think we did some things well. Hard work can pay off. Winning whatever kind of game is important."
Easier to please than predecessor Bill Parcells, Phillips was smiling long before kickoff as he settled into the home sideline at Texas Stadium. His mood only improved seeing Tony Romo complete 10 of 11 passes while leading two long scoring drives and watching Keith Davis intercept a tipped pass and return it 41 yards for a third-quarter touchdown.
Dallas' lead reached 23-3 before the Colts scored a touchdown in the closing minutes against a unit featuring few guys likely to make the 53-man roster.
Indianapolis certainly won't fret this result. The Colts went 1-3 in the preseason last year and wound up winning the Super Bowl; they were 0-5 in 2005 exhibition games then won their first 13 regular-season games.
"All in all, we have things to build on," Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy said.
Romo christened the work of new offensive coordinator Jason Garrett with a quick 8-yard pass to T.O. He also completed his next three throws and his last six, missing only with an overthrow of Owens. His passes went for 93 yards and to six different receivers.
"The ball was distributed well," said Owens, wearing a Barry Bonds jersey. "We'll practice hard and get better. This was a great start for us."
However, Romo missed a wide-open Jason Witten on the overthrow of Owens and he threw to Marion Barber instead of wide-open Anthony Fasano on his final pass. The Cowboys had to settle for field goals on both drives, getting a 24-yarder from Martin Gramatica and a 25-yarder by Nick Folk.
"We were taking what the defense gave us," Romo said. "But at the same time it was fun to move down the field quickly. We got into a good rhythm."
Romo, by the way, didn't hold on either kick. His backup, Brad Johnson, handled duties for Gramatica and punter Mat McBriar did so for Folk.
Romo's bobbled snap on the hold of a field goal in Seattle ended the Cowboys' last game, and Parcells' tenure. The last time the Colts played, confetti sprinkled on them in Miami after beating Chicago in the Super Bowl.
Peyton Manning played just one drive this time, going 3-for-5 for 37 yards. Most of it came on a 28-yard strike to Marvin Harrison, made possible by rookie left tackle Tony Ugoh holding off Dallas' best rusher, DeMarcus Ware. Ugoh is trying to take over the spot vacated when Tarik Glenn retired five days before training camp opened.
"I thought we pass-protected well against the first group," Dungy said.
Manning went into his trademark pre-snap gyrations on the fifth play, a handoff, then threw a weird-looking ball for an incompletion the next down. Facing third-and-9 from the 22, he threw deep into the end zone near three Cowboys and no Colts. He walked to the sideline discussing with Harrison what went wrong and got the rest of the night off.
Kicker Shane Andrus, filling in for resting Adam Vinatieri, kicked a 40-yard field goal at the end of that drive.
Manning's backup, Jim Sorgi, was unable to produce any points, save for the interception returned by Dallas' Davis, who has not picked off a pass in 54 regular-season games. Third-stringer Josh Betts was intercepted in the end zone in the fourth quarter. He redeemed himself with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Trent Shelton in the closing minutes.
After Davis' touchdown made it 13-3, the Cowboys stretched the lead with a 2-yard touchdown run by Tyson Thompson, who is coming back from a broken ankle that cut short his 2006 season, and a 47-yard field goal by Gramatica.
There were plenty of indications that this was the first game in months for everyone.
At the end of the first half, Dungy was ready to have his team take a knee and head to the locker room, only to see the Cowboys call a timeout because rookie linebacker Anthony Spencer wasn't on the field, leaving them with 10 men.
Officials seemed to be in preseason mode, too. In the first half, they appeared to cost the Colts a first down with a short spot on a third-down pass, then television replays showed they may have mistakenly called an incompletion on a sliding catch by Fasano.
The problems even spread to the press box, where the computers that handle the stats were on the blink.