The formal start of the NFL season is a few weeks off, but last night’s first preseason game saw a the Dallas Cowboys eke out a 20-18 victory over the Arizona Cardinals and NBC win the night by a wide margin on a packed Thursday.

Pulling in a 2.3/11 among adults 18-49 and 7.79 million viewers for the annual Hall Of Fame game in early numbers, NBC was up 156% over last week in the demo. In metered-market results, the 8 PM-starting game pulled in a 5.4/10. Eclipsing the 4.3/8 of last year’s August 25 Atlanta Falcons-Miami Dolphins matchup, last night’s metered-market result is the best for a weeknight NFL preseason game since the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers scored a 5.7/10 on August 18, 2011 for Fox.

Still, moving back to fast affiliates, you would expect with the first-ever Thursday Hall of Fame game that the overall result to be better than the other nets put together. Not that the rest of the Big 4 didn’t mostly hold their own.

CBS’ Big Brother (1.9/8), and ABC’s entire lineup — Boy Band (0.5/2), Battle Of The Network Stars (0.6/3) and The Gong Show (0.6/3) — were all even with their July 27 airings. Fox’s Beat Shazam (0.8/3) and Love Connection (0.6/3), plus the CW’s Penn & Teller: Fool Us (0.4/2) and Whose Line Is It Anyway? (0.4/2), also stayed the same as last week’s fast-affiliate results. Taking the lone hit for the night, the House of Moonves’ Zoo (0.5/2) was down a tenth from its fast affiliate of last Thursday, which was adjusted down a tenth in final numbers.

And remember, LA, it’s hot out there – so stayed hydrated, whether you’re at TCA or not.