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ARLINGTON, Texas – While Jerry Jones is concerned about a winless preseason with his defense in disarray and quarterback Tony Romo coming off back surgery, he also remembers his first year as owner of the Dallas Cowboys.
It was appropriate that the history lesson involved the Denver Broncos, who got four scoring drives from backup quarterback Brock Osweiler on Thursday night in a 27-3 victory that clinched Dallas' fifth season in franchise history without an exhibition victory.
Jones fired coach Tom Landry right after he bought the Cowboys in 1989, and they were unbeaten in the preseason when they faced Denver and coach Dan Reeves, who played for the man who led Dallas for the club's first 29 years.
"He was hot about Coach Landry and those things that had been done here with the Cowboys," Jones said. "He left (John) Elway all the way through the whole game and we played into overtime ... so we didn't go undefeated. And we won one football game the whole season. So much for the preseason."
The Cowboys (0-4) didn't make the playoffs in three of their other four winless preseasons and are trying to avoid matching a club record with a fifth straight year of missing the postseason.
"A lot of individual players had good preseasons," said coach Jason Garrett, whose team opens the season Sept. 7 against San Francisco. "They're ready to go. The biggest thing we have to do now is cut the team down the right way."
Drafted by Elway, now a team executive, to be groomed as Manning's replacement, Osweiler had his best preseason yet. He engineered eight scoring drives in four games and completed 29 of 49 passes for 416 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
"Coach (John) Fox has a saying, 'If you're not getting better, you're getting replaced,' so that sat with me pretty hard since my rookie year," Osweiler said after directing three drives that ended in rushing touchdowns. "I was very happy with things, but this is a business where you consistently have to keep getting better, and that's what we're going to do."
Kapri Bibbs, a running back on the roster bubble, rushed for two second-half scores for the Broncos (3-1).
Romo's backup, Brandon Weeden, came out before halftime of his second ragged game in four preseason outings. He was 6 of 12 for 75 yards with an interception that set up Denver's first touchdown.
Weeden led a 74-yard drive to a field goal, but was off the mark on several throws and had just one first down in three other possessions.
"I've gotten a ton of reps," said Weeden, who was dumped by Cleveland just two years after the Browns drafted him in the first round. "That's what I need. This is my first year in this offense with this team, and I've gotten a good feel for it."
The Broncos shared most of their running plays between running backs expected to make the team in C.J. Anderson and Juwan Thompson. The Cowboys sat their top four runners and handed the ball to guys who might not be around after final cuts Saturday.
Anderson got the heaviest load with 14 carries for 33 yards and a 1-yard touchdown set up by Osweiler's 34-yard pass to a leaping Andre Caldwell near the goal line.
One of the Dallas backs was Phillip Tanner, who wasn't re-signed by the Cowboys after spending his first three years with them. Tanner was cut by the Colts last week, so the Cowboys officially added him earlier Thursday just to get through the game. He led Dallas with 26 yards.
"I am here for whatever," Tanner said. "They need me to change lights, I'll change lights. Take out the trash? I'll take out the trash. Whatever they need me to do here to make this team, I'm willing to do it."
As expected, Denver defensive end DeMarcus Ware didn't play in his first trip to Dallas since the Cowboys' franchise sacks leader was released and signed with the Broncos in March.
Ware had a long pregame chat on the field with Jason Witten, the Dallas tight end who interrupted Ware's conference call with reporters this week for some playful trash talk.
NOTES: The Cowboys decided against free agent DT Henry Melton making his Dallas debut coming off a groin injury. ... To make room for Tanner, Dallas waived CB B.W. Webb, a fourth-round pick last year. ... The Broncos sacked third-string Dallas QB Dustin Vaughan four times.
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