The Dallas Cowboys picked up their second road win of the year, defeating the Panthers in Carolina, 19-14 and moving to back to .500 on the year at 3-3. The defense provided a huge boost for a team who was coming off of a disappointing loss in Baltimore last week, Dallas snapped their two-game losing streak and gathered some momentum going into next weeks showdown with the Giants.
Carolina started the game with the ball and went three and out quickly thanks to the Dallas defense pressuring Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. The ensuing possession for the Cowboys didn’t go very far, however, as the Cowboys went three and out, but had poor field position because of a personal foul on hothead receiver Dez Bryant after a punt return. Dallas has been plagued by penalties all year and that was one of the keys to the game in order for the Cowboys to pick up a much needed road win. Neither team got on the board in the first quarter, but Dallas clearly outplayed the Panthers on both offense and defense in the first 15 minutes.
End of quarter: Dallas 0, Carolina 0
Dallas began the second period with a third down and goal from the Carolina seven-yard line, Romo hit receiver Miles Austin across the middle, but the seventh-year wide out couldn’t punch it into the end zone and the Cowboys settled for a 19-yard Dan Bailey field goal to score the first points of the game. It was a disappointing end to a drive that lasted a whopping 10 minutes and contained a total of 18 plays.
Dallas had the Panthers in a third from midfield, but lost contain on Newton and got burned for a 24-yard gain to set up the Panthers at the Dallas 30. Newton used his patented option play to gain 20 more yards and move Carolina into the red zone for the first time in the game. On second and goal, though, Newton was hit as he threw and the ball caromed right into the hands of rookie first round draft pick, cornerback Morris Claiborne, for his first NFL interception and only the second one for the Cowboys all year long. The Cowboys quickly moved out to midfield thanks to a few nice runs by Jones, and on second down, Romo found Austin, who turned inside and ran up the middle, but linebacker Thomas Davis punched the ball out of Austin’s hands and the Panthers recovered. Another long run by Newton got Carolina into Dallas territory with just under two minutes to go in the half. Newton found Brandon LaFell for 32 yards and a first down at the Dallas 18-yard line. With 14 seconds to go, Newton hit LaFell again on a shallow cross and the receiver stretched the ball across the goal line to give the Panthers a 7-3 lead going into halftime.
End of quarter: Cowboys 3, Panthers 7.
Neither team did anything with their first possession of the second half, Dallas went three and out and then kept Carolina at bay. On Dallas’ second possession, Romo got the ball downfield on a third and eight, hitting Miles Austin in the middle on a post route –Miles didn’t fumble this time– for 36 yards and a first down and then on the next play, floating the ball beautifully toward the corner for Austin, who made the catch for the touchdown and gave the Cowboys a 10-7 lead.
The Dallas defense cracked down again on the next drive, forcing Carolina into another three and out and giving the Cowboys good field position at the Carolina 40-yard line. The drive stalled didn’t go very far,however, and Dallas again had to settle for a Dan Bailey 49-yard field goal for a 13-7 lead. The defense continued its strong day, forcing Carolina into yet another three and out on the next drive, the play that stood out was linebacker Dan Connor tackling Cam Newton on a third and one, keeping the second-year quarterback from using his big body to stretch for the first down.
End of quarter: Dallas 13, Carolina 7.
The Cowboys began the final frame by going three and out, Romo almost threw an interception on third down, but luckily it was dropped by the defender. The Panthers began to run more of a hurry-up offense on their following possession, with Newton using the play-action pass to break open receivers for big plays. Carolina was inside the Dallas 10-yard line after a couple of passes and an untimely personal foul on nose tackle Jay Ratliff. The Cowboy defense held them on third and goal, but a holding penalty on cornerback Brandon Carr negated the stop and fullback Mike Tolbert ran it in from two yards on the next play to put the Panthers back on top. Dallas committed crucial penalties on the drive multiple times and really looked out of sorts after playing very solid ball the previous three quarters.
The offense continued to struggle on the next drive, gaining one first down before punting it away to Carolina again with nine minutes to go in the ballgame. The defense got back on track, though, keeping the Panthers at bay and forcing a punt to give Dallas good field position at their own 41-yard line. Dallas converted a key third down, with Romo finding backup running back Phillip Tanner on a check down and keeping the drive alive. Romo found Witten for a big catch and one that put the Cowboys inside the red zone again. But once again, inexplicably, Dallas toned down the play calling and played for the go-ahead field goal instead of passing on third and nine. Bailey nailed the 20-yarder to put Dallas back on top, 16-14 with three minutes left in the game. Head coach Jason Garrett decided to leave the game in the hands of his defense, who had been pretty stout for most of the day. The unit responded, holding Carolina on fourth and two with two minutes left. A horse-collar tackle on Tanner gave Dallas a chance to run the clock down to just under a minute before attempting a field goal that gave them a 19-14 lead with 53 seconds left. The Dallas defense iced the game on the next drive, sacking Cam Newton on third and ten and then stopping Carolina’s attempt for their own “Music city miracle” on fourth down
Final score: Dallas 19, Carolina 14.
It was a good win for the Cowboys and a good defensive performance against a team with plenty of firepower. Untimely penalties kept Carolina in the game, but in the end, the Dallas defense showed up again and proved how different they are from last years squad.
Romo had his first game of the year without an interception and was a very economical 24 of 34 for 227 yards and a touchdown.
The Cowboys host the Giants next week and will attempt to beat New York for the first time at Cowboy Stadium.