IRVING, Texas -- A 96-yard touchdown drive, followed by another touchdown 14 seconds later. A great catch on a 60-yard touchdown pass. And an 83-yard punt return for a touchdown.
So, Bill Parcells, what stuck out most about your first game coaching the Dallas Cowboys in Texas Stadium?
The mistakes, of course.
"It's just a start, something to build on, a little encouraging for me," Parcells said following a 34-6 victory over the Houston Texans on Friday night. "But I want a smart team and a smart team doesn't get eight penalties and turn the ball over twice. A dumb team does that. And dumb players are offsides three times in a row in the second half."
Quincy Carter did his best to tighten the battle for starting quarterback, recovering from a slow start to go 6-for-6 for 90 yards on the long drive and hitting Antonio Bryant on a 30-yard touchdown pass immediately after Dallas (1-1) recovered the ensuing kickoff.
With co-frontrunner Chad Hutchinson watching from the sideline, Carter went 10-of-17 for 141 yards and left with a 17-3 halftime lead.
Houston starter David Carr played the entire first half, too, and produced just one scoring drive. The Texans (0-2) took a fumble on the opening series and drove inside the Dallas 10, but settled for a 22-yard field goal by Kris Brown.
Carr completed his first seven passes, with a 29-yarder to Jabar Gaffney on the first drive, and finished 12-of-16 for 96 yards. He was sacked twice; it would've been three but he was flagged for intentional grounding.
"We've got some things we need to take care of protection-wise that I'm actually glad happened tonight than in Miami (season opener) or definitely in the season," said Carr, who was sacked an NFL-record 76 times last season. "I think it's just more mental breakdowns than being beaten down physically. These are things we can fix and hopefully get better."
Parcells said Thursday that nothing should be read into his decision to give Hutchinson the night off, although owner Jerry Jones said Hutchinson outplayed Carter in a 13-0 loss to Arizona in the preseason opener.
Parcells opened camp hoping to pick a starter after this game, but in announcing his QB rotation for this game he said Thursday he didn't know when he'd do it.
"This was an opportunity for Quincy and he took advantage of it," Jones said.
So did Troy Hambrick, who had minus-1 yard on four carries against the Cardinals. He ran for 11 and 10 yards on his first two carries and finished with 38 yards on eight tries. He had a 1-yard touchdown run to cap the 96-yard drive and made a key block on the TD pass to Bryant.
Carter helped himself with more than his accuracy. On the long drive, he danced away from a sack, turning a near loss into a first down from the 9 when cornerback Jason Bell was flagged for holding in the end zone.
Tony Romo, an undrafted rookie from Division I-AA Eastern Illinois, replaced Carter to start the third quarter and lost a fumble while scrambling on his first play. He bobbled his second snap, but finished 4-of-6 for 74 yards, most on a 60-yard touchdown to Randal Williams, who made a great grab over cornerback Kenny Wright.
Parcells said the quarterback made "more good decisions than bad," adding that the long drive "was a good sign, that was real positive."
Parcells also said he was encouraged by the quick score following the fumbled kickoff and by the long punt return from sixth-round pick Zuriel Smith. Parcells smiled wide and patted Smith on the back when he came to the bench.
The Texans gained just 204 yards and didn't convert a third down until rookie Dave Ragone took over in the fourth quarter. Coach Dom Capers said his team regressed from the preseason opener, a 20-12 loss to Denver.
"I was encouraged with the start last week, but disappointed with the performance tonight," Capers said. "We were a sloppy football team. We've got a lot of work to do."
This was the first game setting for the Cowboys and Texans since Houston stunned Dallas in its first regular-season game last September. The teams met in a scrimmage in San Antonio two weeks ago. They don't meet again in the regular season until 2006.
Dallas backup running back ReShard Lee sprained a knee.
The Associated Press News Service
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