Cowboys Edge Past Panthers,19-14, With Steady Performance
The Dallas Cowboys improved to 3-3 on Sunday after a somewhat strange game at Carolina. It wasn’t quite a must win situation for the Cowboys but a loss here would have put them in a really bad place.
Once again they had to endure moments of frustration, penalties stiffling drives and allowing the Panthers extra opportunities. Prevail they did however, and set up a mouthwatering game at Cowboys Stadium next week against the NFC East leaders and current Champions, New York Giants.
After winning the coin toss the Cowboys deffered and let Cam Newtons offense onto the field first. After a quick possesion they had to punt and pinned the Cowboys deep in thier own territory. However a statement was about to be made and Tony Romo led his team 91 yards in 18 plays, only to stall at the end and settle for a Dan Bailey field goal. Although it seemed a chance missed after a convincing, balanced drive, it was points on the board, something they didn’t achieve last week at Baltiomore when they turned the ball over in the Red Zone.
Cam Newton is always a threat when being flushed out of the pocket, and so it proved when Dallas were playing man coverage he raced outside not once but twice for gains of over 20 yards to get Carolina inside the Cowboys 10. Morris Claiborne came up with his first pick as a Cowboy in his own end zone to stop the drive. He has been due one and so has the Dallas D.This came at the perfect time.
Romo set about his next drive in the same manner of the first, with a mixture of plays. The drive was moving steadily until he found Miles Austin over the middle for what looked like a big gain. However, Austin failed to tuck the ball away, Thomas Davis knocked it lose and the Panthers D pounced on the loose ball.
This season Dallas has been it’s worst enemy with untimely errors and penalties, and so it was no shock when shortly after this turnover Newton found Brandon LaFell for a touchdown strike, to give the home team a 7-3 halftime lead. Newton’s strong running gave him 65 yards for the first half, something that Dallas would have to make adjustments to.
After a slow start to the second half, it suddenly came to life when Austin, making up for his earlier fumble, caught and ran for a 36 yard gain. On the very next play Romo found Austin for a 26 yard touchdown strike with a perfectly thrown ball bto the left corner of the end zone, right over Austin’s right shoulder.
The dreaded penalty flags came out again to hamper another Dallas drive but Bailey was good again with his kick making it 13-7 with just over 2 minutes to play in the 3rd.
Carolina were not going to quit just yet, coming into this game with a 1-4 record they knew a loss here would probably spell the end of their campaign. Early in the 4th, big holes were appearing in the middle for the Panthers to exploit primarily because LB Sean Lee was off the field nursing a foot injury. Jay Ratliff was called for a personal foul just as the defense had held on 3rd down, and another flag on Brandon Carr led to an easy scoring run by Mike Tolbert. Panthers led 14-13 with just over 11 minutes to play.
At this point you would fear that Dallas would come up with an unforced error, something always happens to us at the worst possible moment, right? But just as last week, Romo kept his nerve and drove his team nicely into field goal range. Twice. Bailey connecting on both, making him 4 from 4 for the day.
Riding a bit of luck at the end when pass interence could have been called on a Panther 4th down, the Cowboys held on for the win; cemented on the penultimate play by the returning Anthony Spencer who laid a crushing sack on Newton.
Overall a win that wont put fear into opponents, but a crucial one at this stage of the season.
Now lets gets the Week One playbook out shall we………….