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CANTON, Ohio — Emmitt Smith and Jerry Rice could be excused if they turned their eyes away from the field. Maybe there was a rerun of Dancing with the Stars to catch.
The NFL offensive icons who entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame the previous day could not have been comfortable with the action at Fawcett Stadium on Sunday night, when Dallas beat Cincinnati 16-7 to open the preseason.
At least they could marvel at Chad Ochocinco’s footwear.
The Bengals receiver wore gold shoes for his few plays. Was that a tribute to Smith, Rice and the other members of the Class of 2010?
“That’s exactly what it was, how did you know?” he said. “That’s exactly why I did it.”
Asked about possibly being fined by the league for sidestepping the dress code, he threw up his hands in disdain and moved on to other questions.
“Chad has so many different-colored shoes he is like a woman,” Terrell Owens chimed in.
The offenses generally sputtered all night and there were eight sacks in a sloppy affair. Clearly, none of the aura of the NFL’s career leaders in rushing and receiving rubbed off.
At least some of Saturday’s other inductees — the ones who played defense, Dick LeBeau, John Randle and Rickey Jackson — could appreciate the lack of scoring and the takeaways. Dallas picked off three passes and recovered a fumble; Cincinnati also recovered a fumble.
Nobody could be impressed by the slew of penalties, 16 overall, 12 by Cincinnati for 90 yards. Then again, it was the preseason opener.
“The best thing about it,” Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said, “is you see what you did and what you need to improve on.”
The Cowboys hope this is the opening step, small as it was, toward becoming the first team to play in a Super Bowl in its home stadium. That goal will take months before it can be achieved, of course, and the most memorable item this weekend for them will remain Smith’s entry into the Hall of Fame.
“Having Emmitt inducted into the Hall of Fame is special,” All-Pro linebacker DeMarcus Ware said. “For us now playing for the Cowboys, it does make it extra special.”
Most of the regulars worked short shifts. At least the Cowboys’ starters looked sharp during their minimal stints.
Tony Romo led them to the Cincinnati 2 with a steady opening drive before they stalled and David Buehler kicked a 20-yard field goal. Romo was 5 for 10 for 59 yards.
“You just have to continue to work on the things we’ve been doing through the offseason and in training camp,” Romo said. “You’re never sure until you get into a game-like mode, and some of the new stuff, it was nice to see it work out really well. It’s a start. We have to build off of it, but we still have a ways to go, and we’re on the way.”
Dallas certainly needs better protection for its quarterbacks after Cincinnati had five sacks, including two by linebacker Michael Johnson.
The Bengals made plenty of offseason news with the additions of Owens and Pacman Jones, who was not signed by any teams last year because of his previous off-field issues and missed the season. Neither former Cowboy had much impact, although Owens caught two passes for 18 yards and was thrown to four times by Carson Palmer.
“We’re a work in progress,” Owens said. “We’re getting there. It felt just like practice.”
It often looked like it, as well.
Buehler added field goals of 34 yards in the second quarter and 23 yards in the third. The last kick was set up when linebacker Brandon Williams returned an interception of Jordan Palmer — Carson’s younger brother and Cincinnati’s third-string quarterback — 36 yards to the Bengals 9-yard line.
Dallas capped the one-sided victory when Brandon Sharpe picked off Jordan Palmer’s fourth-quarter pass and dived untouched into the end zone for a 6-yard score.
Bengals rookie Jordan Shipley ran back a punt 63 yards in the final minutes, and Jordan Palmer hit rookie tight end Darius Hill for a 1-yard TD with 51 seconds remaining.
“It was looking like we’d get the shutout,” Ware said. “Almost did.”
Cincinnati’s best player was punter Kevin Huber, who averaged 46.4 yards on 10 punts.
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