OAKLAND, Calif. — Monte Kiffin has brought an opportunistic defense to Dallas in the preseason.
Sean Lee and rookie J.J. Wilcox forced first-half turnovers for Dallas’ revamped defense before the Oakland Raiders rallied past the Cowboys for a 19-17 victory in their exhibition opener Friday night.
Lee flattened Matt Flynn on a delayed blitz on the opening drive of the game to force a fumble deep in Oakland territory in his first action since a season-ending toe injury last October.
Wilcox intercepted an ill-advised pass from Terrelle Pryor in the end zone to thwart a promising Raiders drive.
The Cowboys forced just 16 turnovers last year, contributing to the firing of coordinator Rob Ryan, who was replaced by Kiffin as the defense moved from a three-man front to a four-man front.
Dallas has forced four turnovers in its first two preseason games under Kiffin.
Tony Romo, who sat out last week against Miami after offseason surgery to remove a cyst from his back, completed 6 of 8 passes for 88 yards in his first two series of the preseason.
Kyle Orton threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Cole Beasley and rookie Joseph Randle scored on a 1-yard run in the fourth quarter to give Dallas a 17-16 lead.
But the Cowboys lost that lead when rookie B.W. Webb fumbled a punt that Eric Harper recovered at the 9, setting up Eddy Carmona’s second field goal of the game. It was a rough night for Dallas’ special teams as the Cowboys had a field goal blocked and allowed a 51-yard kickoff return.
Flynn rebounded from his early fumble to steadily lead a scoring drive and Pryor mixed a few dazzling plays with a maddening interception for the Raiders in their preseason opener.
Flynn’s tenure in Oakland got off to a rough start when he was sacked by an unblocked Lee on his first drive, leading to a fumble that Jason Hatcher recovered for Dallas at the Raiders 16.
After a holding penalty, a tipped pass and a sack by rookie Sio Moore on Romo’s first drive of the preseason, the Cowboys were lucky to get a field goal out of that gift field position when Dan Bailey connected from 38 yards.
Both quarterbacks fared far better on their second drives with Flynn converting a pair of third downs on passes to Denarius Moore and Rod Streater to set up a 51-yard field goal by Sebastian Janikowski after Dallas star defender DeMarcus Ware left for the night.
Romo completed 5 of 6 passes for 77 yards before Bailey’s field goal attempt was blocked by Tyvon Branch.
Flynn’s night was over after going 4 for 5 for 37 yards.
“It’s good to get your feet wet a little bit, see a different color helmet and really just play the game,” Flynn said. “We did a pretty good job. We’d like to get it in the end zone, but there are a lot of positive things that came out of it.”
Pryor came in and mixed in some electrifying plays with questionable ones. Pryor ran 13 yards on a read option on his first play, delighting the fans who have been partial to the former Ohio State star since he joined the Raiders in the supplemental draft two years ago.
Pryor also showed poise in the pocket, throwing an 18-yard screen to Jamize Olawale and converting a third-and-8 with a 9-yard pass to Andre Holmes.
But those promising plays were erased when rolled out on third-and-4 from the 6 and threw late across his body when he had room to run and was intercepted by Wilcox in the end zone.
Pryor bounced back after Orton completed all six passes on an 80-yard touchdown drive and completed three passes for 54 yards in the final minute to set up a field goal by Janikowski.
The Raiders took charge in the second-half battle of the bottom of the roster with Usama Young intercepting a pass from Nick Stephens to set up a field goal and undrafted rookie Matt McGloin throwing a 30-yard TD pass to Brice Butler.