Maybe it wasn't the most polished of victories, but it was a victory nonetheless. And what Dallas needed more than anything was to walk out of Cowboys Stadium on Monday night with a 'W', and they got it. The Cowboys much-maligned defense finally got untracked for the season with three sacks and three turnovers including a pick six. They stifled the Panthers running game and held Steve Smith in check. They still aren't tackling that well in the secondary, but they showed some physical toughness along the line and in the second half they smothered the Panthers offense.
The Dallas offense was able to run the ball effectively all night and Felix Jones showed why he's electric with the ball in his hands. Unfortunately, he injured his knee (severity unknown, although he did play one more play afterward), but Tashard Choice stepped in and kept the Cowboys rushing attack going. Dallas rushed for 212 yards on the night, making the second game in a row with over 200 rushing yards.
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Tony Romo didn't have a big night, but he did have an efficient one, and he did exactly what we asked of him - no turnovers. Yes, he should be happy with his performance even though it wasn't explosive. We want wins, and being efficient and keeping the ball will lead to wins.
This game belonged to the defense. Mike Jenkins had a quality INT and Terence Newman got a gift that he turned into six. Jay Ratliff broke the seal on Cowboys sacks for the year. Then the most unexpected thing happened, the Cowboys inserted rookie Victor Butler into the game late, and boom, two sacks and a forced fumble. Butler just may have earned himself some playing time. Also, give some love to Igor Olshansky who was playing the run very tough in the middle.
Nice job on punt returns by Patrick Crayton.
There were problems. Penalties at the worst times hurt us again, like a falste start on the goal line by rookie TE John Phillips. There was Jason Garrett's inexcusable decision to call a fade not once, but twice, from the 1-yard line. The first one gets a pass, the second one was dumb football. The Panthers couldn't stop the Cowboys run game all night, why would you think they could there.
The offensive line also showed vulnerability in pass protection. The Panthers, not usually a blitzing team, blitzed a lot and the Cowboys line struggled to pick it up. Romo was sacked twice and was under heavy pressure on plenty of plays. Credit goes to Romo though, he managed to avoid heavy traffic and still make plays while not turning over the football.
We all wanted a demolition. It would've been nice to run the Panthers out of the stadium. That didn't happen. But the Cowboys came out and played the second half with the urgency they needed (and should've had from the start), eventually pulling away for a 21-7 win.
It may not have been fine art, but it was a fine win.