ARLINGTON, Texas – Tony Romo thought he had finished all his work by halftime, when the first-team Cowboys offense finally scored a touchdown.
The Dallas quarterback had to get called back after their 24-18 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
Thinking he was done since he had given quotes to a team official at halftime, after throwing two TD passes, Romo initially left the locker room Saturday night without talking. He eventually spoke on a conference call with reporters crowded around a speakerphone in a small room.
"I thought it was important more than anything just to score points and put us in a position to have a good feeling as we finished the preseason with the starters," Romo said. "It was something we needed to do to cap the preseason because we hadn't gotten in the end zone yet."
In what expected to be the last game action for Romo and the starters until their season opener in two weeks against the NFC East rival New York Giants, Romo completed 13 of 18 passes for 137 yards, with TDs to Dez Bryant and Miles Austin.
There were five series for Romo, the same as his other two games when the only score for the starters was a field goal.
Here are five things we learned from the Bengals and Cowboys:
1. GREEN IS GOOD: Two-time Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green made his preseason debut for Cincinnati after being sidelined the first two games because of a bruised left knee sustained in the first training camp workout. He caught three passes for 42 yards, and was a heel from having a touchdown — he didn't quite get his second foot down in bounds after a nifty catch on the far side of the end zone in the third quarter. "I felt good out there. Good to get back, get my wind back," Green said. Asked about Green's solid performance, quarterback Andy Dalton responded, "It's what I expect."
2. MURRAY'S RESPONSE: A primary emphasis for the Cowboys after six turnovers their previous game was to take care of the football. They didn't have any turnovers, though No. 1 running back DeMarco Murray fumbled inside the Cowboys 10 in the first quarter. Dallas offensive tackle Jermey Parnell recovered and Murray stayed in for the rest of that drive. But Murray then got benched until the second half by coach Jason Garrett. Murray responded after coming out with second-team quarterback Kyle Orton for the first drive after halftime. Murray carried eight times for 45 yards, then twisted and turned past five defenders to turn a short pass into a 7-yard touchdown.
3. GIVING IT AWAY: Cincinnati had four turnovers. The Bengals fumbled on their first drive, after Marvin Jones was stripped following a 16-yard catch to the Dallas 4. Andy Dalton threw an interception in the second quarter. "The fact we hurt ourselves is the biggest thing," said Dalton, who finished 12 of 16 for 113 yards. "It will be a good tape to learn from." It was the first loss this preseason for the Bengals, who have been to the playoffs each of the past two seasons and have most of the same players back. "Now we can quit having all that smoke puffed up our butts and we can get back to work," coach Marvin Lewis said.
4. STILL OUT OF LINE: The Cowboys are still moving players around on the offensive line. Doug Free, who started all 16 games at right tackle last year and every game the previous two seasons at left tackle, played right guard. Parnell was at right tackle and Mackenzy Bernadeau at left guard. Left tackle Tyron Smith and center Travis Frederick played their regular spots. Romo was sacked twice, including the first play of the game. The Cowboys had 18 running plays for 45 yards (2.5 yards per carry) in the first half.
5. PUNT FOR THE SKY: Dallas punter Chris Jones knew when he kicked the ball that it had a chance of hitting the huge video boards that hang 90 feet above the center of the field. "It goes up there and gets in the shadows and then I saw it kind of flutter down," Jones said. The ball ricocheted off the framework that holds the two boards — and still went 47 yards. By rule, that made it a dead ball and necessitated a re-kick. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, they didn't get another do-over since Brandon Tate returned the second kick 75 yards for a touchdown. The only other time a punt hit the boards was in the very first preseason game in August 2009, when Tennessee's A.J. Trapasso got it.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org