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NFL GAMEDAY RESOURCES: Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins in the 2013 Hall of Fame Game

Miami Dolphins vs Dallas Cowboys - DAL ranked 16  VS  Miami Dolphins vs Dallas Cowboys - MIA ranked 14

The Dallas Cowboys are ailing, but they still should be a bigger divisional threat to the reigning champion Washington Redskins than the New York Giants. The defense is the key to that equation, not Tony Romo. While the lightning-rod quarterback did have his miscues with the division on the line in Week 17, how many times did he and the Cowboys’ sixth-ranked offense bail out Rob Ryan’s unit last year?

Still high on the Miami Dolphins, but 14 is as high as we go on potential. The Fins are certainly a threat to the Patriots in the East, but a bunch of free-agent signees frolicking around in gym shorts and a 2012 record of 7-9 is not enough to leapfrog the Colts or Bears in these rankings. Armon Binns is practicing well and making a play for the slot, potentially giving this team an inside complement to Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline.

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GAMEDAY RESOURCES: Dallas Cowboys vs. Miami Dolphins postgame coverage

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SPOTLIGHT – THIRD ROUND STAR: DeMarco Murray’s physical play motivates offense, demoralizes defenses

Kam Chancellor #31 of the Seattle Seahawks reaches out to tackle DeMarco Murray

IRVING — Before they drafted him, the Dallas Cowboys wondered if DeMarco Murray could be a tough inside runner.

They know now.

His performance in the season opener against the New York Giants, on top of the promise he showed last year as a rookie, has them so convinced, they’re no longer even pretending they have a committee or co-starter approach at running back.

"DeMarco Murray is our starter at tailback," coach Jason Garrett said Wednesday at Valley Ranch.

Murray ran for 131 yards on 20 carries against the Giants. Felix Jones got 12 snaps, no carries, two targets, no catches.

"There’s definitely a role for Felix, and we like what he does for our offense both in the run game and in the pass game," Garrett said. "Depending on how the game goes, he’s going to get more touches or fewer touches."

It’s probably going to be fewer as the Cowboys go with the wear-them-down mentality that worked ideally against the Giants.

Murray ran for 111 of his 131 yards in the second half, including a 48-yard run that demonstrated both his bullish power and his open-field dynamic.

"I love it how he explodes into the guy who is trying to tackle him at the end of the run," Garrett said. "His pads are always down, and he’s always finishing forward. I think it’s good to get yards that way, but I also think it sends a message to the guy who’s trying to tackle him."

Murray shrugs.

He came from a spread offense at Oklahoma. He’s known as a speed guy. But he’s also 6-foot and 215 pounds.

The words are almost visible on his face: Why would anyone wonder if he was a physical player?

"At the end of the day, I’d rather go north and south than go east and west and try to shake and make someone miss," he said. "But it just depends on the situation. There are a lot of good defenders in this league, so there aren’t too many times when you can make guys miss, and there aren’t too many games when you’re one-on-one. But I just try to finish as much as I can."

The running style radiates confidence. Murray has it in himself. He is transferring it to everyone else.

"When we see DeMarco attack, it gets us going, too," left guard Nate Livings said. "You see what kind of mindset he’s in. You’ve got a back that’s laying it on the line, too. It kind of makes you feel appreciated for laying it on the line. It just all comes together. It’s real appreciated to see that."

Garrett said Murray’s physical play allows him to squeeze more out of his runs.

"I don’t know if any of us really, really saw how physical he was at the end of plays," Garrett said. "All the great runners that I’ve been around are guys that finish runs. You think it’s a 4-yard run; boy, he made 6. You think it’s an 8-yard run; aw, he made a first down. He has that ability. You see that in space. There were a number of plays where he caught the ball in space, made a guy miss, and before you know it, I’m calling a second-and-4 play."

Murray had only one carry over 5 yards in the first half against the Giants. In the second half, he had runs of 9, 48, 9, 15 and 7 among his 15 touches. The Cowboys put the ball in his hands to get the final first down they needed, although it was called back by a penalty.

"It’s demoralizing for a defense to get a back that is going to give more to you than you give to him," owner Jerry Jones said. "I think that pays off."

Livings said he didn’t hear a peep from the Giants’ defense last week.

"No, you didn’t hear anything," he said. "You just heard the pop. The pop says a lot."

For Murray, the 6.6 yards per rush against the Giants marked the seventh time he averaged 4.0 yards or more per rush in a game in his young NFL career. In 14 games with the Cowboys, he has rushed for 1,028 yards.

Can’t do that without being both a good outside runner and a tough inside runner. The Cowboys used to wonder.

"Now they know," Murray said.

DeMarco Murray - Carrying the Load - The Boys Are Back blog

INTERIOR DEPTH INSURANCE: Why the Dallas Cowboys traded for Miami offensive lineman Ryan Cook

Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman Ryan Cook - The Boys Are Back blog

On the day of final cuts in the NFL, the Cowboys continued to address a problem area from last season by bolstering the interior of their offensive line.

The Cowboys acquired veteran offensive lineman Ryan Cook from the Miami Dolphins for a 2013 seventh-round draft pick. Cook (6-6, 325) will be a backup center and guard for the Cowboys.

Cook, 29, has started 40 of the 77 games. A second-round pick out of New Mexico in 2006, has started games at center, right guard and right tackle.

The Cowboys were able to get an up-close look at Cook on Wednesday at Cowboys Stadium when he started at center against Dallas in the preseason finale.

“We knew that there was a possibility here, so we really evaluated him in the ballgame,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Friday on “The Fan” KRLD-FM (105.3). “This really was done for our depth, plus he’s very capable because he’s started several games in the NFL. He’s very capable of getting out there and competing. Hopefully you’ll see a lot of him this year.”

The Cowboys still plan to start Phil Costa at center. Costa started Wednesday and was in for 12 offensive plays. He had been out since Aug. 10 with a back injury but is expected to play in the season opener Wednesday at the Giants.

The Cowboys signed free-agent guards Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau this off-season with the expectation that they would start. Both battled injuries but are healthy now.

Ankle injuries to reserve interior offensive linemen Bill Nagy and Kevin Kowalski hurt the Cowboys’ depth. Nagy was waived in mid-August, and Kowalski has been placed on the reserve/physically unable to perform list, keeping him out of the team’s first six games.

The Cowboys started working guard David Arkin at center in training camp, but he struggled with his shotgun snaps throughout the preseason. Arkin, a fourth-round draft pick in 2011 out of Missouri State, didn’t appear in any games last season.

“We all know that we’ve been struggling to some degree with Kowalski out the entire spring as well as during training camp,” Jones said. “We have counted on him for depth and don’t want to totally dismiss him, but he’s down the road with where we are and what we’ve seen.”

Brandon George | DMN

ON THE BUBBLE: Nine wide receivers competing for six (maybe seven) roster spots

Kevin Ogletree and Dwayne Harris were on the field Monday. The two receivers ran routes and worked to get open. But they didn’t have anything left to prove. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said so Tuesday on KRLD-FM (105.3).

“I’d say as I look at them right now, they both have a place on the field for us against the Giants,” Jones said, referring to the team’s opponent for the regular-season opener next Wednesday.

But what about the other five wideouts who were competing for jobs? Where did Danny Coale, Saalim Hakim, Cole Beasley, Tim Benford and Andre Holmes stand? And could they make a great enough impact in the final preseason game against Miami to claim a spot on the team?

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Andre Holmes (15) catches a deep ball vs Miami Dolphins - The Boys Are Back blog

PHOTO: Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Andre Holmes (15) catches a deep ball vs. Miami Dolphins – STAR-TELEGRAM/RON JENKINS

On Wednesday, in the Cowboys’ 30-13 victory over Miami in their final preseason game, few answers were provided. Beasley, identified as the most promising of the bunch during training camp, didn’t make a catch. Then again, he didn’t play that much, which seemed to be a good sign he could be sticking around.

“Hopefully,” Beasley said. “But if some of the other guys might have stepped up, they might forget about me.”

That’s now not a concern for Beasley because while Hakim, Coale, Benford and Holmes recorded at least one reception, they didn’t do anything especially noteworthy Wednesday. Together they made just six catches for 107 yards and no touchdowns.

“I put everything out there,” said Holmes, who had one reception for 32 yards and felt tightness in his right knee. “I just went as hard as I could.”

ON THE BUBBLE: Phillip Tanner showed what helped him make team last year

Dallas Cowboys running back Phillip Tanner (34) runs against Miami Dolphins - The Boys Are Back blog

Dallas Cowboys running back Phillip Tanner said he wasn’t out to prove anything in the fourth and final preseason game Wednesday night. But he did show the ability that helped him stick last year.

He carried nine times for 48 yards and a touchdown against the Dolphins in the first half before giving way to Lance Dunbar and Jamize Olawale in the second half. The other backs were brought in to give him competition for the third running back spot, and Olawale gained an edge on the others when Tanner was out with a broken hand and Dunbar missed time with a hamstring injury.

“It wasn’t like me going out here and proving anything,” Tanner said. “Like we’ve talked before, it was just going out, having fun, playing football – something I’ve been doing since I was 8 years old. Just going out, gelling with the team.”

Tanner gave credit to center Phil Costa and fullback Shaun Chapas for creating running room for him. His first seven carries gained 45 yards. And he said he felt sharp.

“I made sure I stayed in mentally when I was out with the hand,” he said. “I stayed in my playbook, stayed watching film, just going out and gelling with the guys. That’s the biggest thing.”

Dallas Cowboys Phillip Tanner - The Boys Are Back blog

ON THE BUBBLE: Lance Dunbar rushes for 105 yards towards a roster spot

Dallas Cowboys running back Lance Dunbar signs autographs - The Boys Are Back blog

Dallas Cowboys running back Lance Dunbar, a rookie free agent from North Texas and Haltom High School, made his final audition for a roster spot a memorable one Wednesday night in Cowboys Stadium.

Dunbar rushed for a team-high 105 yards, including a 58-yard touchdown burst in the third quarter of a 30-13 victory over the Miami Dolphins. Dunbar (5-foot-8, 191 pounds), who missed the team’s first two pre-season games with a hamstring injury, also mixed in a 27-yard punt return and a tackle on kickoff coverage. He averaged 7.0 yards per rush (15 carries, 105 yards).

Dunbar’s touchdown marked the longest run from scrimmage by a Cowboys’ back during the pre-season. His performance drew post-game praise from coach Jason Garrett, who acknowledged that several performances in Wednesday’s game “probably made us rethink some things” in regard to the makeup of the team’s 53-man roster.

Dallas Cowboys running back Lance Dunbar vs Miami Dolphins - The Boys Are Back blog

Asked about landing a spot on the Cowboys’ roster, Dunbar said: “I think I did enough. But I think I could have done better. I could have made more tackles on special teams … it was an alright performance.”

But Dunbar said “it meant a lot” to top the 100-yard mark in a game he viewed as an all-or-nothing evaluation opportunity after missing the brunt of training camp with the hamstring injury.

“I think I did pretty good,” Dunbar said. “They’ll evaluate, and we’ll see what happens soon.”

Garrett called Dunbar’s performance one of the bright spots in Wednesday’s contest.

“I thought Dunbar ran the ball really well. He showed his lateral quickness, his ability to burst through a hole and, obviously, make big runs,” Garrett said. “And he’s a tough guy. He’s not afraid to stick it up in there, either. We’ve felt really good about Dunbar all through the off-season and through training camp. He just hasn’t had a chance to play because he got banged up.”

Dunbar is competing with incumbent Phillip Tanner, who carried nine times for 48 yards and a TD, to be the team’s third running back.

“We like our backup running backs,” Garrett said. “Phillip Tanner has done a really nice job since he’s been here, both as an offensive player and also on special teams.”

ON THE BUBBLE: Orie Lemon’s pick-six against Miami draws praise

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Orie Lemon scores on interception - The Boys Are Back blog

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Orie Lemon, who spent last season on the practice squad, made the type of play in Wednesday’s pre-season finale against Miami that could earn him a roster spot this season.

Lemon, an Oklahoma State product, scored a second-quarter touchdown on a 26-yard interception return. Lemon read the eyes of Miami quarterback Matt Moore, undercut the route of running back Marcus Thigpen and jogged into the end zone for the score.

Lemon’s play was the first to draw praise from Cowboys coach Jason Garrett during his post-game news conference, when Garrett acknowledged that multiple performance against the Dolphins could cause some last minute tweaks to the 53-player makeup.

“Orie Lemon made a huge play in the game with the interception return for a touchdown,” said Garrett, adding that Lemon played “with the right spirit and the right mentality.”

But will it earn him a roster spot?

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Orie Lemon interception return - The Boys Are Back blog

“You never know,” Lemon said. “I’ve got to get better at a lot of things on the defensive side of the field. I’ve got to get better on special teams also. I know if I do, I’ll be on somebody’s team. I’ll be on special teams mostly. I think I opened up a couple of eyes.”

Lemon, a Houston native, said he hopes the eyes he opened belong to Dallas coaches. He said: “I want to stay here. I don’t want to go anywhere else. It’s like family to me. I would love to stay here. But if I had to go somewhere else, I’ll do what I have to do … I feel like I put some good film out (for other teams to notice).”

Consider Cowboys inside linebacker Sean Lee among those who has noticed Lemon throughout training camp.

“Orie Lemon is a real physical football player. He improved a lot through the year last year and he worked hard this off-season,” Lee said. “There’s one thing you can’t teach and that’s the ability to make plays with the football. That’s an ability he has. He works hard. He’s a smart guys and he’s a great teammate. I’m really excited to see him do well.”

PRESEASON GAME RECAP: Dallas Cowboys 30, Miami Dolphins 13

Dallas Cowboys running back Phillip Tanner (34) breaks free against the Miami Dolphins - The Boys Are Back blog

ARLINGTON, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys wrapped up the preseason with a 30-13 win over the Miami Dolphins at Cowboys Stadium on Wednesday night. Unlike last season when wide receiver Raymond Radway was injured in the closing seconds of the preseason at Miami, there were no such major health issues coming from this game. This was the last chance for several players to make an impact on the coaches and scouts and join the 53-man roster.

What it means: The Dallas Cowboys finish the preseason 3-1 and have to make some hard decisions regarding the No. 3 quarterback spot, whether or not to keep a fourth running back or which running back to keep, whether Orie Lemon and Mario Butler make the team and should Danny Coale and Matt Johnson earn paychecks in September.

McGee vs. Carpenter: There is this battle for the No. 3 quarterback position. Stephen McGee played the first half and led one touchdown drive and converted 13 first downs. He completed 9-of-18 passes for 124 yards. The Cowboys led 20-6 at the break. Rudy Carpenter also led the Cowboys on a touchdown drive — capped by a a 58-yard run by Lance Dunbar — and finished 4-of-10 for 48 yards. Carpenter also had a 21 yard scramble. But it would appear neither quarterback did enough to secure a shot on the roster.

Only one starter plays: Between both units, only center Phil Costa played. Costa missed the first three preseason games with a strained lower back and the Cowboys wanted to give him some snaps before putting him in a regular season game. Costa didn’t have any bad snaps and it’s unknown if he had any blown assignments. David Arkin replaced Costa.

The running game is strong: There are no questions regarding the status of DeMarco Murray as the starter. Felix Jones has been guaranteed a roster spot by owner/general manager Jerry Jones. We thought the No. 3 running back gig was going to Phillip Tanner, but Lance Dunbar came on strong Wednesday night. Dunbar ran with a burst, scoring on a 58-yard run. Let’s not forget about Tanner, who burst up the middle for a 1-yard score. Dunbar rushed 15 times for 105 yards and Tanner rushed for 48 yards on nine carries.

Dallas Cowboys running back Jamize Olawale (49) has his helmet knocked from his head after being hit by Miami Dolphins linebacker Cameron Collins - The Boys Are Back blog

Orie Lemon made his case: If linebacker Orie Lemon was a bubble player, he should make the roster. He returned an interception 26 yards to give the Cowboys a 10-6 lead in the second quarter. Lemon was also active on defense and, given what he does on special teams, should make the 53-man roster. Adrian Hamilton was also fighting for a roster spot, but he hasn’t shown his pass rush abilities on a consistent basis with the Cowboys.

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Orie Lemon (58) is congratulated by teammates after returning an interception for a touchdown against the Miami Dolphins

Cowboys lose three players: Guard Derrick Dockery left the game for personal reasons and fellow guard Daniel Loper suffered a hamstring injury. Cornerback Lionel Smith departed the game with a concussion. None of the three returned.

Who played well: Tyrone Crawford, Orie Lemon, Phillip Tanner, Lance Dunbar and Dan Bailey.

Who didn’t: Teddy Williams, David Arkin, Stephen McGee.

Bailey is perfect: Kicker Dan Bailey finished the preseason 8-for-8 on field goal attempts. Bailey made kicks of 25, 30 and 26 yards Wednesday night. The Cowboys didn’t have any concerns about him heading into the preseason but unlike last season when the team had a kicking competition, nothing was going on here. It was all Bailey. The longest kick of the preseason by Bailey was 49 yards.

Ryan Tannehill makes the start: The eighth-pick of the NFL draft, quarterback Ryan Tannehill made the start for the Dolphins. He completed 6-of-8 passes for 41 yards. The former Aggie played with a presence and threw some strong passes, but he still has a ways to go to help the Dolphins.

What’s next?: The Cowboys must cut their roster to 53 players by Friday night and then finalize their practice squad roster with as many as eight players. The team will practice over the weekend at Valley Ranch and prepare for the regular season opener at the New York Giants.

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Kevin Ogletree (85) goes after the ball against Miami Dolphins - The Boys Are Back blog

DALLAS MORNING NEWS HEADLINE: Dallas Cowboys reserves roll over Miami Dolphins, 30-13

Dallas Cowboys running back Lance Dunbar rushed for 105 yards on 15 carries with a 7.0 yard average in preseason finale victory over Miami - The Boys Are Back blog

PHOTO: Dallas Cowboys running back Lance Dunbar rushed for 105 yards on 15 carries with a 7.0 yard average in preseason finale victory over the Miami Dolphins.  Vernon Bryant |Staff Photographer

ARLINGTON — Orie Lemon returned an interception 26 yards for a touchdown, No. 3 running back Phillip Tanner had a 1-yard score and the Dallas Cowboys finished their preseason with a 30-13 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Wednesday night.

A week before playing in the NFL’s kickoff game against the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants, the Cowboys (3-1) kept quarterback Tony Romo and most of their front-line starters standing on the sideline.

Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill, the first-round draft pick from Texas A&M already tabbed Miami’s starter, was 5-of-7 passing for 35 yards playing the first two series. The Dolphins led 3-0 when he was done.

Miami (0-4) finished its preseason winless under new coach Joe Philbin. The season opener is Sept. 9 at Houston.

Undrafted rookie running back Lance Dunbar had 15 carries for 105 yards, including a 58-yard TD run, for Dallas in the third quarter. Tanner started with DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones sitting, and finished with nine carries for 48 yards.

Another former Texas A&M quarterback, Stephen McGee, possibly took his last snaps for the Dallas Cowboys after playing the entire first half and going 9 of 18 for 124 yards.

Two years ago in another preseason finale against the Dolphins, McGee passed for 304 yards while going all the way in the victory that probably assured him the spot as the team’s third quarterback that season.

McGee, a fourth-round draft pick in 2009, has played in only three regular-season games and started one.

With Kyle Orton signed during the offseason to be Romo’s backup, Dallas likely will carry only two quarterbacks on its 53-man roster. Plus, McGee is no longer eligible for the practice squad like Rudy Carpenter would be.

Carpenter was 4 of 10 for 48 yards in the second half.

Even though they were playing at home again only four days after a win over the St. Louis Rams, the Cowboys have already turned their attention to the Giants.

When they get to their Valley Ranch practice facility Thursday, it will be essentially a Monday of game week.

Pro Bowl receiver Miles Austin didn’t play in the preseason because of hamstring issues, and receiver Dez Bryant was held out for the second straight game because of right knee tendinitis. Both are expected to be ready for the Giants, though Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten (lacerated spleen) is less certain for the unprecedented Wednesday night opener.

Dallas Cowboys Orie Lemon capitalizes on an interception by returning it 26 yards for a touchdown - The Boys Are Back blog

Lamar Miller had 17 carries for 60 yards and a TD for the Dolphins.

Miller’s 1-yard run capped a 14-play, 89-yard drive that took exactly half of the third quarter to complete.

Dan Bailey kicked three field goals for the Cowboys while Dan Carpenter had field goals of 21 and 53 yards for Miami less than 2 minutes apart late in the first quarter.

After Carpenter’s shorter kick, Teddy Williams fumbled the ensuing kickoff at the Cowboys 33. That’s when Matt Moore took over for Tannehill, failing to get a first down and leading to the long field goal by Carpenter.

On Dallas’ first snap after that, cornerback Quinten Lawrence was called for pass interference against Kevin Ogletree that was good for 43 yards. That led to a 25-yard field goal by Bailey.

Moore was only 4 of 12, including the pass over the middle early in the second quarter that Lemon picked off and took into the end zone for a 10-6 lead.

The Cowboys had two big passing plays to set up Tanner’s 1-yard score.

Andre Holmes caught a deep pass from McGee for a 32-yard gain. Later in that drive, McGee scrambled and kept avoiding defenders as he rolled to the left. He was near the sideline and threw off one foot, hitting Tim Benford for 36 yards.

MIAMI HERALD: Miami Dolphins fall to Dallas Cowboys in preseason finale

 

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Stephen McGee (7) scrambles and throws for a completion near the goal line in the second quarter as Miami Dolphins defensive end Ryan Baker (90) looks on in NFL preseason action on Wednesday, August 29, 2012, at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

ARLINGTON, Texas — The good news for the Dolphins: Their exhibition season has mercifully come to an end.

But here’s the rub: That might be their bad news, too.

Miami closed out a winless exhibition season with a 30-13 loss to the Cowboys Wednesday. In short, Dallas’ backups were better than Miami’s, since neither team played their starters beyond the first couple of series.

The night’s biggest takeaway: Ryan Tannehill played near-flawlessly in the short time he was in. But there’s a catch: Tannehill only faced Dallas’ backup secondary, and his greatest success came against guys on the fourth line of the depth chart.

Tannehill completed 6 of his 8 pass attempts for 41 yards, but both of his incompletions were on the money. The first hit Legedu Naanee in the hands, but was dropped.

On the other, Tannehill targeted Naanee on fade route in the end zone, but corner Teddy Williams mugged Naanee, preventing him from making a play. Yet the officiating crew – replacements, it should be noted – missed a clear pass interference call.

But even with Tannehill’s solid night, he again couldn’t get the Dolphins into the end zone. Miami has scored just two touchdowns in Tannehill’s 20 drives this preseason. The Dolphins even got a special teams turnover – Dan Carpenter recovered a fumble – but couldn’t advance the ball.

“No touchdowns,” Joe Philbin said at the half. “Our special teams did a great job and got a takeaway for us and we went backwards.”

Tannehill may have been lucky to simply get out of Big D on two legs, considering who he had blocking for him.

The only starter on the offensive line to play was Jonathan Martin – a rookie who has struggled throughout much of the preseason.

Ray Feinga started at left tackle for Jake Long, who hurt his right knee during practice Monday. That at least was expected. But the rest of the changes – Chandler Burden for Richie Incognito, Ryan Cook for Mike Pouncey and John Jerry for Artis Hicks – were a surprise.

Tannehill escaped the night without taking a sack, although he did sustain a pretty nasty late hit, which he shook off.

Tannehill’s replacement, however, wasn’t nearly so lucky. The Cowboys sacked Matt Moore three times, including one by Victor Butler in which the Dallas defensive end completely schooled Feinga.

Not long after that, Feinga got the hook, Martin shifted to left tackle and Andrew McDonald played on the right side.

The constant pressure seemed to get to Moore. A play after taking a sack, Moore threw a horrendous interception that Orie Lemon returned for a touchdown. Moore apparently didn’t see Lemon dropping in coverage, and threw it right to the linebacker.

Moore, who lost out in the training-camp quarterback competition to Tannehill, finished the preseason completing just 20 of his 51 passes for 234 yards, two interceptions and no touchdowns. His quarterback rating: 37.5.

Yet with David Garrard’s knee still not healed, Moore will likely entered the season as Miami’s backup quarterback.

Who Tannehill and Moore will be throwing to remains unclear.

Neither Brian Hartline nor Davone Bess played Wednesday. But both are likely on the team.

Meanwhile, none of the eight other receivers trying to fill out the opening-day depth charts did anything to distinguish themselves. Naanee and Marlon Moore got the start Wednesday, and had identical stat lines: 2 catches for 19 yards.

Rishard Matthews again was the team’s most productive receiver, catching a team-high 3 passes for 47 yards. But Matthews has played mainly in mop-up duty, which doesn’t bode well for Friday’s final cut-downs.

The Dolphins are expected to be very active once hundreds of players released in the coming days hit the waiver wire. General manager Jeff Ireland said on My 33’s pregame show that he was “very excited about what’s going to happen the next three days.”

Thanks to last year’s 6-10 season, Miami should be in good position to capitalize on more than a few castoffs. They have they league’s eighth-highest waiver priority.

Whether or not Pat Devlin makes this team as its third quarterback remains to be seen. Devlin completed 6 of 10 passes for 58 yards Wednesday, and led the Dolphins on their only touchdown drive. The score came on a 1-yard plunge by Lamar Miller, who had 60 yards on 17 carries.

Courtesy: ADAM H. BEASLEY | Miami Herald

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Dallas Cowboys vs. Miami Dolphins

Dallas Cowboys vs Miami Dolphins helmets

Preseason.

It’s finally coming to an end.

The Miami Dolphins visit the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium tonight to close it out.

Here’s a preview.

Stephen McGee vs. Rudy Carpenter: The Cowboys are thinking about going with two quarterbacks. Tony Romo and Kyle Orton have guaranteed roster spots. After that, McGee, the third quarterback since 2009, and Carpenter, who is trying to make the active roster, will get a shot Wednesday night. McGee has been inconsistent this summer in camp practices and in three preseason games. Carpenter has led the third unit on a touchdown drive. McGee is the better talent, but roster issues could force the Cowboys to go with just two quarterbacks, unless someone emerges.

Claiborne and Spears should play: First-round pick Morris Claiborne and veteran defensive end Marcus Spears should play a little on Wednesday. Here’s why. Claiborne, who missed the first preseason game with a knee sprain, needs to get more snaps before getting ready for the New York Giants on opening night. Spears is getting snaps with the second team and will most likely get a few snaps just to either keep him sharp or see if the Cowboys still want him on the team.

What’s uncertain?: The third quarterback for one thing. And in reality, it doesn’t matter who the No. 3 receiver is. Kevin Ogletree, Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley will make the team, but who gets the sixth receiver spot is the question. Andre Holmes? Danny Coale? Tim Benford? The swing tackle is Jermey Parnell, but who out of Pat McQuistan, Daniel Loper, Derrick Dockery and Ronald Leary make the team? Orie Lemon, Shaun Chapas, Jamize Olawale, Adrian Hamilton, Lance Dunbar and Akwasi Owusu-Ansah are competing for a some of the final three or four roster spots.

The series with the Dolphins: The Cowboys lead the preseason series 4-2 and lost the last meeting 17-3 in South Florida. In that game, Sept. 1, 2011, receiver Raymond Radway fractured his leg on a pass in the end zone at the end of the game. Radway missed the regular season. He was cut this week by the Cowboys.

Connections: Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland was a former executive with the Cowboys, and Brian Gaine, the Dolphins’ assistant general manager, worked in the personnel department with the Cowboys. At one point the Dolphins had many former Cowboys. Now, there are only a few. Linebacker Kevin Burnett, for one, plays for the Fins.

Parking, parking, parking: For the second consecutive time, the Cowboys and Texas Rangers are playing at nearly the same time. Rangers first pitch is around 6:05 p.m. CT. Kickoff is scheduled for around 7:30 p.m. CT. Cowboys Stadium parking lots open at 2:30 p.m. East Plaza is open at 3:30 p.m. and stadium gates to all plazas open at 5:30 p.m. Fans who have pre-purchased parking in the Ranger Lots A-B and M will have their passes honored. Stadium officials ask fans to get their early due to the Rangers game.

By the way: Regular season starters like Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, Brandon Carr and Sean Lee won’t play. Just telling you.

Local TV and radio: The game kicks off at 7:30 p.m., on KTVT/Ch. 11 (CBS).

The Dallas Cowboys Radio Network - 105_3 The Fan KRLD

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GOING DOWN TO THE WIRE: For 22 men, it’s the last chance to make a good impression

Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks Stephen McGee (7) Tony Romo (9) and Rudy Carpenter (right) during Dallas Cowboys training camp - The Boys Are Back blog

Tony Romo’s mind will be 1,500 miles away tonight. The Dallas Cowboys quarterback and most of the team’s other starters already are thinking ahead to next week when they open the season against the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

But for many other players, including third-string quarterback Stephen McGee, this is a last chance to make a good impression. The Cowboys, who have 75 players on their roster, must pare down to a final 53 by Friday night. So jobs are on the line tonight at Cowboys Stadium when they take on the Miami Dolphins:

McGee’s shot

Stephen McGee has started the final preseason game against the Dolphins each of the past two years, completing 48 of 67 passes for 537 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. He needs another good outing against Miami to convince the Cowboys he has potential to be something other than a career third-string quarterback. The Cowboys could choose to keep only two quarterbacks, with Rudy Carpenter going to the practice squad. But McGee gets one last shot to try to change the Cowboys’ minds.

Costa’s snaps

Most of the team’s 22 starters won’t play, but center Phil Costa is expected to be an exception. Costa returned to the practice field Monday and, because he hasn’t played this preseason, should get at least a few snaps against the Dolphins. Costa had been out with a lower back strain since Aug. 10. David Arkin had started in Costa’s place in the first three preseason games, but Costa is in line to start the season opener against the Giants.

Receiver watch

The Cowboys like what they have seen from Kevin Ogletree, Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley this preseason. They need to see more from Andre Holmes and Danny Coale. Holmes, a favorite of Jerry Jones, did himself no favors when he reported to camp out of shape. A back injury and inconsistency might have done in his bid to make the 53-player roster, as he has six catches for 58 yards this preseason. Coale was drafted in the fifth round with high hopes for his special teams work as much as for his receiving ability. But injuries have prevented him from doing much until now. He made his preseason debut last week and had one catch for 8 yards and one run for 9 yards, but he did not play special teams. Coale, who played 82 snaps on special teams last year at Virginia Tech, is expected to play on kickoff coverage and kickoff return units and possibly on punt returns against Miami.

Third running back

Phillip Tanner earned a roster spot in 2011, as the fourth running back, off his preseason work. He had 24 carries for a team-leading 128 yards in the 2011 preseason. But injuries have slowed Tanner since. A hamstring injury landed him on injured reserve midway through last season, and a broken right hand Aug. 3 has not helped his bid to keep his job this season. He had two carries for 2 yards in his preseason debut last week. He is battling a pair of former North Texas players, Jamize Olawale and Lance Dunbar.

Nose tackle

The Cowboys haven’t ruled Jay Ratliff out of the season opener yet, but the starting nose tackle has only 11 days in which to come back from a high-ankle sprain if he is to play against the Giants. More than likely, Sean Lissemore and Josh Brent will split the job on opening day. This could be the dress rehearsal for Lissemore, who is expected to play in the substitution packages, and Brent, who is expected to play in the base package

ROB RYAN: “… Our guys worked their ass off. They try so hard.”

Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. DOLPHINS COWBOYS

Star-Telegram/Ron Jenkins

Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan

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ARLINGTON – The secondary’s struggles continued and the Dallas Cowboys proved vulnerable during stretches of the their 20-19 victory over Miami. But Dallas’ brash defensive coordinator was satisfied as he sauntered out of the locker room.

Asked about the defense’s performance, Rob Ryan replied, "I wouldn’t it call it real strong, but we’re happy with the win."

While the Cowboys did surrender 352 total yards, they conceded only one touchdown. Dallas proved particularly strong inside its own red zone — holding the Dolphins to four field goals in a game the Cowboys would win by a one point.

"I think we executed better than we have been," Ryan said. "It was a point of emphasis. Our guys worked their ass off. They try so hard. We had to be exact out there and we were in the red zone. It really helped us."

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STEPPING UP: Laurent Robinson takes blame for interception

Miami Dolphins cornerback Vontae Davis (21) intercepts a Tony Romo pass

Star-Telegram/Ron Jenkins

Miami Dolphins cornerback Vontae Davis (21) intercepts a Tony Romo pass

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Tony Romo wasn’t the only Cowboy who had to overcome a shaky start Thursday.

Laurent Robinson said Romo’s second interception actually wasn’t the quarterback’s fault. Although it appeared that Romo underthrew Robinson on the sideline route, the receiver took full responsibility.

“I was supposed to stop right there, but I was reading something on the run, and I thought I was supposed to go deep,” Robinson said. “I made a bad play. I’ve got to watch the film to see what happened and do better than that.”

It didn’t stop Romo from looking his way. Robinson was targeted 12 times, twice as much as any Cowboys receiver, and he responded by catching seven passes for 79 yards with two touchdowns.

He has now caught a touchdown pass in five consecutive games and has a total of seven during that span.

“He seems like he always finds me. It’s kind of crazy,” Robinson said. “I call it a little I-AA connection because he went to Eastern Illinois and I went to Illinois State.”

Robinson made a nice grab on the first 5-yard touchdown pass, which was low and a bit behind him. Then, in the fourth quarter, as Romo scrambled away from defenders, he raced all the way across the back of the end zone and hauled in an 18-yard pass in the left corner.

“When I see him scramble, I’m scrambling,” Robinson said. “I’m running the same direction as him so he can see me. He made a great throw, and it was an easy catch for me because he put the throw right on the money.”

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ROOKIE ROLLS: Dallas Cowboys DeMarco Murray finishes strong

Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (29) breaks through the line as the Miami Dolphins play the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday November 24, 2011.

Ron T. Ennis/Star-Telegram

Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (29) breaks through the line as the Miami Dolphins play the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday November 24, 2011.

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DeMarco Murray may not have had another 100-yard game, but what he did in the final three minutes earned even more respect from his teammates.

After back-to-back catches by Jason Witten moved the ball the Dolphins 35-yard line, Murray got the ball five consecutive times and picked up a pair of critical first downs to move the Cowboys in position for a short field goal.

“That right there, to me, is more meaningful than the 150 yards he’s had in previous weeks because things are tough running there,” tight end Jason Witten said, noting how the Dolphins were stacking eight and nine men in the box. “He understands what he’s got to do there: stay in bounds, keep the clock running, get the hard yards. It’s a sign of a really good back.”

Murray passed the credit to the offensive line, which struggled much of the day with penalties but came through in the end.

“It was a tough defensive line,” he said. “They definitely gave us all we could handle, but we definitely finished.”

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SACKS MOUNT: Four sacks, but none from DeMarcus Ware

Miami Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore (8) is brought down by Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware (94) as Jay Ratliff (90) approaches on Thursday November 24, 2011. A penalty nullified the sack

Ron T. Ennis/Star-Telegram

Miami Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore (8) is brought down by Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware (94) as Jay Ratliff (90) approaches on Thursday November 24, 2011. A penalty nullified the sack

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The Dallas Cowboys collected four sacks against Matt Moore, but none came from the team’s leader in that category. DeMarcus Ware, who came into the game with 14 sacks, appeared to have his 15th early in the fourth quarter, but the play was negated by an illegal contact penalty against Abram Elam.

Victor Butler registered his third sack, tying a season high, and Kenyon Coleman had his first sack in five years. The other sacks came from Orlando Scandrick and Sean Lee.

Ware said he also was impressed by the play of Anthony Spencer, who was in the Dolphins backfield all afternoon, finishing with a team-high eight tackles, including three for losses.

“I don’t know he gets back there, but he finds ways to make those tackles and make them third and 5, second and 12,” Ware said. “Those are the plays that we need.”

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RANDY GALLOWAY: Final score reflects how the Dallas Cowboys ‘will’ prevailed (Video)

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) before Thursday's game. The Miami Dolphins played the Dallas Cowboys Thursday November 24, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. (Star-Telegram/Ron Jenkins)

Star-Telegram/Ron Jenkins

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo

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The Boys Are Back blog - Press play to watch video
The Boys Are Back blog – Press play to watch video

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Mr. Randy Galloway and Mac Engel debate the reasons for the Dallas Cowboys’ recent roll. Is it Tony Romo? DeMarco Murray? Or the quality of the opposition? (Nov. 22, 2011) Video by Kathy Vetter/Star-Telegram

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ARLINGTON — Seemingly overmatched and definitely outplayed in so many areas, including the defensive front, the secondary, the offensive line, and on top of all that, the quarterback throws a couple of what-the-heck-was- that picks to start the game.

There were obviously more than enough butt-whippings on Thanksgiving afternoon for the Cowboys to end up a cooked turkey.

“A lot of things on this tape we aren’t going to like,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said.

Actually, it’s a game tape that would be better off torched.

But NFL rules say that after 60 minutes of clock time, you add up the points for both teams, and…

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BOX SCORE AND MORE: How did your favorite Dallas Cowboy do vs. Miami Dolphins?

BOX SCORE - Dallas Cowboys vs. Miami Dolphins
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Scoring Summary
First Quarter Mia Dal
FG 2:42 Shayne Graham 26 yd FG 2:42
Drive: 5 Plays, 18 Yards, 2:04
3 0
Second Quarter Mia Dal
FG 4:38 Dan Bailey 32 yd FG 4:38
Drive: 10 Plays, 48 Yards, 5:02
3 3
TD 0:55 Laurent Robinson 5 yd pass from Tony Romo (Dan Bailey kick) 0:55
Drive: 1 Plays, 5 Yards, 0:06
3 10
FG 0:00 Shayne Graham 28 yd FG 0:00
Drive: 7 Plays, 46 Yards, 0:55
6 10
Third Quarter Mia Dal
FG 8:02 Shayne Graham 27 yd FG 8:02
Drive: 11 Plays, 71 Yards, 6:58
9 10
TD 3:54 Brandon Marshall 35 yd pass from Matt Moore (Shayne Graham kick) 3:54
Drive: 5 Plays, 74 Yards, 2:20
16 10
Fourth Quarter Mia Dal
TD 14:31 Laurent Robinson 18 yd pass from Tony Romo (Dan Bailey kick) 14:31
Drive: 9 Plays, 77 Yards, 4:23
16 17
FG 7:14 Shayne Graham 23 yd FG 7:14
Drive: 14 Plays, 76 Yards, 7:17
19 17
FG 0:00 Dan Bailey 28 yd FG 0:00
Drive: 10 Plays, 54 Yards, 2:59
19 20
 
To check out the rest of the Box Score … click HERE.
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Courtesy: Dallas Morning News, Stats, Inc., and The National Football League.
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Dallas Cowboys top Miami Dolphins in final second; stay atop NFC East standings

Dallas Cowboys WR Laurent Robinson (80) celebrates his second-quarter TD pass reception with teammates Martellus Bennett (80) and John Phillips (89) during the Miami Dolphins vs. the Dallas Cowboys NFL football game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington on Thursday, November 24, 2011
Photo courtesy: Louis DeLuca / DMN Staff Photographer
 
Dallas Cowboys WR Laurent Robinson (80) celebrates his second-quarter TD pass reception with teammates Martellus Bennett (80) and John Phillips (89) during the Miami Dolphins vs. the Dallas Cowboys NFL football game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington on Thursday, November 24, 2011.
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ARLINGTON — Tony Romo doesn’t care about winning in style. He’s leading the Dallas Cowboys to victories, and that’s all that matters.

Romo overcame a pair of early interceptions by throwing two touchdown passes to Laurent Robinson and rookie Dan Bailey made a 28-yard field goal as time expired, giving the Dallas Cowboys a 20-19 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Thursday.

The Cowboys (7-4) were never able to grab control, but also never trailed by more than six points. The defense gave up scores on four straight series, but limited the damage because three of those were field goals. They finally got a stop with Dallas trailing 19-17.

Romo took over on his 36-yard line with 2:59 left. He completed a few passes, then rookie DeMarco Murray kept grinding out yards and winding down the clock to set up Bailey’s winner.

“We did enough to give ourselves a chance to win the game,” Dallas coach Jason Garrett said.

This was the second straight game that Bailey ended with a field goal, and the fourth time he’s done it this season. The kick was his 26th straight made field goal, matching the second-best in club history.

It also was a measure of redemption for Cowboys fans, coming 18 years after the Dolphins won a Thanksgiving game on a last-second field goal following Leon Lett’s memorable gaffe on a snowy afternoon. This time, conditions were so balmy that the glass end-zone doors at Cowboys Stadium were opened for the first time all season.

Dallas won its fourth straight, continuing its best streak since a division championship season in 2009. The Cowboys also grabbed sole possession of first place in the NFC East, moving a half-game ahead of the Giants. New York plays at New Orleans on Monday night.

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LISTEN LIVE: Dallas Cowboy’s postgame show on the Dallas Cowboy Radio Network

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Due to NFL restrictions, online streaming of games is prohibited by affiliates.

You can listen and/or watch games online via NFL.com or

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GAMEDAY … The Boys Are Back at home … Cowboys vs Dolphins

Dallas Cowboys vs Miami Dolphins - Thanksgiving Day 2011
Dallas Cowboys vs Miami Dolphins – Thanksgiving Day 2011.

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Dallas Cowboys vs. Miami Dolphins

 
The Boys Are Back Bonus Videos
 
02:15 – A preview of the Week 12 matchup between the Dolphins and the Cowboys.
 
04:19 – Cowboys little-known backup QB Clint Longley shocks the Washington Redskins on Thanksgiving Day. See where it ranks on the all-time Thanksgiving moments.
 
03:34 – Find out where Leon Lett’s infamous mistake vs. the Miami Dolphins ranks on the top 10 Thanksgiving moments of all time.
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Can’t catch The ‘Boys on TV? Don’t worry … we’ve got your back!
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FOX GAMETRAX - Dallas Cowboys vs. Miami Dolphins

FOX GAMETRAX - Dallas Cowboys vs. Miami Dolphins

Click HERE for all major network NFL Game Trackers

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Watch the game on TV and listen to the Voice of the Dallas Cowboys over the airwaves.

Check The Dallas Cowboy Radio Network to find a local station.

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Afterwards, listen online to the Postgame show and interviews (Click HERE)!

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TUESDAY PRESS CONFERENCE: Jason Garrett | Bonus – DeMarcus Ware video

Jason Garrett Press Conference - The Boys Are Back - Press play

Jason Garrett Press Conference - The Boys Are Back - Press play

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Garrett Press Conference: Tuesday

Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett speaks to the media as his team continues to work towards the Miami Dolphins on Thursday.

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DeMarcus Ware: A Lot Of Opportunities

Dallas Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware talks to the Miami media about playing in Rob Ryan’s defense.

NO LONGER A GIMME: Once 0-7, Miami Dolphins suddenly winning big

Dallas Cowboys vs. Miami Dolphins - Thanksgiving Day 2011

Dallas Cowboys vs. Miami Dolphins - Thanksgiving Day 2011

A few weeks ago, the Cowboys’ Thanksgiving guests looked like a gimme win.

Not anymore. The Miami Dolphins will bring a three-game winning streak to town.

The Dolphins aren’t just winning. They suddenly started dominating after an 0-7 start that was punctuated by three-point losses to the Broncos and Giants. Miami’s wins over the Chiefs, Redskins and Bills came by an average margin of 22 points.

An inept offense has morphed into an explosive one with Cowboys castoff quarterback Matt Moore throwing for six touchdowns and only one interception during the win streak. The Dolphins, who scored 20 points only once in the first seven games, have put up 31, 20 and 35 in the last few games.

The Dolphins’ defense, which has been respectable all season, hasn’t allowed a touchdown in the last three games.

“The group just keeps fighting, keep swinging pretty good,” Miami coach Tony Sparano told reporters Monday. “I think it’s great, but right now that one is behind us and we’re ready to go to the next one and see what we do.”

A win over these Dolphins certainly isn’t the sure thing it seemed to be a few weeks ago.

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