Cowboys looking to regroup after loss to Texans

Wade Phillips had his concerns before the Dallas Cowboys played their first preseason road game. Now the coach has some things to address.

A mistake-filled performance in Houston only substantiated Phillips' worries -- and created a few questions with only one game left to get things in order before the regular season begins.

"It was disappointing, but we can learn from it and that's what we're going to do," Phillips said after Saturday's 28-16 loss to the Texans.

These Cowboys (2-1) aren't perfect under Phillips, no matter how well they played against Super Bowl champion Indianapolis and Denver -- two victories that created an air of optimism around a team that hasn't won a playoff game in 10 seasons.

Playing for the first time in a hostile environment, the Cowboys struggled mightily.

After Dallas failed to get a first down on the opening possession, Houston had a 91-yard punt return for a touchdown. The Cowboys had three penalties in a five-play stretch their next possession, including consecutive false starts, and had two turnovers.

The running duo of Julius Jones and Marion Barber combined for 16 carries and 48 yards rushing for Dallas. Jones caught four passes for 16 yards, one yard more than Barber had on his lone catch.

"We had been cruising through the preseason, controlling other teams how we wanted and we had to face a little adversity," receiver Patrick Crayton said.

"The best thing is that the mistakes we made are correctable mistakes," said Tony Romo, whose last pass was intercepted. "As long as it's not a consistent mistake or if the team is not consistently messing up, you'll be OK, because you can fix those things. This is the time of year to do it. We don't want to be doing it next month."

Romo was 14-of-22 passing for 197 yards with two touchdowns. His interception came on a badly underthrown deep ball to Terrell Owens, whose only catch was a slant pattern on which he sprinted past three defenders for a 35-yard TD.

Dallas' restructured, more aggressive 3-4 defense also had its problems. The first-teamers gave up a pair of touchdowns in the second quarter after not allowing any the first two games. The Texans ran for 142 yards.

"This is something we definitely needed to see. We needed to see how we would react," nose tackle Jason Ferguson said. "We need to see how we will react after a loss."

The Cowboys have a short week before playing their preseason finale Thursday night at Minnesota. The regular season opener is Sept. 9 at home against NFC East rival the New York Giants.

"We are good, and we know we have a good team, and it's going to require a little more work," Owens said. "This one game doesn't make our season, nor should it make their season. At the end of the day, we're still 0-0. We still need some work. We'll work on that get the kinks out. We just made too many mistakes."

Notes

Veteran kicker Martin Gramatica sustained a strained right hamstring on a kickoff right after missing an extra point. Gramatica said he "just felt something weird, not really sure exactly." Rookie Nick Folk converted his extra point and kicked a 23-yard field goal making him 3-for-3 (with a 52-yarder) in preseason. ... LB Kevin Burnett didn't play the second half after injuring his left ankle. ... The first roster cutdown day is Tuesday, when the Cowboys have to be down to 75 players. They have to set their 53-man roster by Saturday.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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