A few days ago, I predicted a nailbiter game for the Cowboys, in which Dan Bailey would win on a filed goal, and Dallas advancing to 3-3 after a 26-23 win. That;s not exactly how it played out, but Dallas was still able to come out on top. For those who were unable to watch, missed parts, or just want to review the game, here'e a quick recap:
Carolina won the coin toss and elected to return the ball to begin the game. Dan Bailey made a mistake and kicked the ball out of bounds on the opening kick, starting the Panthers on their own 40, with terrific field position. They were unable to make any use of it however, as the Dallas D quickly forced a 3 and out.
On Dallas's first drive, they were faced with a 3rd and 4 on their side of the 50. Romo found Ogletree near the sideline and completed the pass, which looked like a first down; but a closer look showed the ball bounce off of Ogletree's chest before he reached out to snag it. The little delay pushed him back a yard, and he came up with just a 3 yard reception. Dallas was forced to punt on 4th and 1.
After a couple exchanges, Dallas found themselves with the ball again. A great drive down the field looked like a TD; but on third down inside the redzone, Dallas was unable to capitalize. A short Dan Bailey kick gave Dallas a 3-0 lead in the second quarter.
On the ensuing drive, Carolina seemed to have found a rythym. On a 3rd and 8, Newton stood tall in the pocket. The coverage downfield was great by Dallas, and Newton pulled out his legs for the first time of the day. He burned Dallas for a long gain, putting a shot of enthusiasm into the Panthers crowd and offense. On another run later on, he put the ball inside the 10, primed for a score. After an unsuccessful run, it was a short 2rd and goal for the Panthers. Newton dropped back to look for his quick option, found Smith open in the endzone, but just barely overthrew it. Dallas was in a fortunate 3rd and goal situation. Newton dropped back again. with pressure coming up right in his face, he tosses the ball in the air, with what seemed like no target. A second later, we found he was targeting someone: Morris Claiborne. The Cowboys first round pick cam into the middle and made a diving catch on the football in the endzone, for his first career interception.
Things seemed pretty positive for Dallas, even more when Romo found Austin for a long gain in the middle of the field. Austin got good yards out, but was stripped from behind. It was a hair pulling fumble, recovered by Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly. Cam Newton had a great drive this time. With 14 seconds left in the half, and inside the 10 again, Newton found Brandon LaFell running a drag in front of Claiborne. LaFell reached with the ball, barely getting it inside the pylon. Dallas kneeled the rest of the half, and the teams headed into the locker room. Panthers led the Boys 7-3.
To start the second half, Dallas returned the ball. After a couple exchanges, the Panthers were stopped on a third down, where Cam Newton attempted a fake but was stuffed by LB Dan Conner (who was subbing for injured Sean Lee). The Panthers punted, and Dez made a questionable decision, fielding a punt the probably would have been a touchback. Instead, Dallas, started this drive at their own 12. After a few short plays, Romo found Austin in the middle, this time for 36 yards. Austin covered up the ball and secured it, setting up the ball on the Carolina 26. On the very next play, a perfect, beautiful thrown from Romo was put right in the hands of Austin over Josh Norman on the sideline for a 26 yards TD. Dallas was leading 10-7.
Newton came out, looking to put the Panthers back on track. He was unable to, and Dallas was given the ball again. Dallas got the ball inside scoring range, but failed to convert a third down. Dan Bailey cam out to extend the Cowboys lead to 13-7 with a 49 yard kick.
The Panthers opened the 4th quarter with a long drive. A penalty by Ratliff put the Panthers inside the 10. On 3rd and goal, Newton looked for Smith, but the throw was wide. It looked like a great goal-to-go stop for Dallas, but a flag was thrown, called as a holding penalty on Brandon Carr. With a fresh set of downs, Mike Tolbert power-ran the ball two yards into the endzone, giving Carolina a 14-13 lead.
Dallas was unable to get anything going in the next drive, and punted the ball with about 9 minutes remaining in the game. Carolina was also unable to make anything happen, and gave the ball back to Dallas with 7 minutes to go. Dallas drilled the ball down into field goal range. They made an odd choice, opting to run the ball on 3rd an 9. It was only good for five yards, and with a little over 3 minutes remaining, Dallas went for another field goal to take a 16-14 lead.
Carolina was in a good position, with multiple timeouts, the two minute warning, and good time left in the game. With about 2 and half minutes left in the game, Carolina was in a 3rd and 10 situation, outside of scoring range. Newton found his pass 7 yards down, setting up a 4th and 3. Ron Rivera decided to go for it, despite having a 2 time outs and the two minute warning left in the game. The Panthers snapped quickly and go the first down. However, Dallas had called a timeout just earlier. On 4th and 3 again, Newton tried to dump it short. Claiborne came in with good closing speed to break up the play and force a turnover on downs.
Dallas drove the ball and ate some clock on that drive. with 53 seconds remaining, Dan Bailey connected for his fourth field goal, giving the Boys a 19-14 lead. Carolina had the ball back with 0 timeouts and less than a minute to make some magic happen. On the last play of the game, Newton hurried the offense back to the line. It was going to be a desperation play, with over 50 yards needed for the TD. Newton gave it to Olsen for four yards. Olsen pitched it backwards, and a little desperate lateral game began. Eventually, Newton ended up with the ball. With defenders closing in on him, he tried to pitch it out. However, DeMarcus Ware was there to scoop it up and secure the fumble to win the game. Dallas heads back home 3-3 after a 19-14 win over Carolina.
-This was Tony Romo's first game with 0 INTS this year. He threw for 227 yards and 1 TD.
-In contrast, this was Morris Claiborne's first game with and interception. He made a good play on the ball in the endzone to deny Carolina any points.
-Anthony Spencer is having a pretty good season. In four games, he has 3 sacks.
-Dez was unable to continue his hot streak, coming off with only 2 catches for 14 yards.
-The Cowboys had a tough day against the run, allowing 112 yards on 21 attempts (5.3 avg). However, 64 of them came on 6 attempts by Newton. Aside from him, they allowed the RB's only 48 yards on 15 attempts (3.2 avg)
The Cowboys will host the Giants next week in a Week 1 rematch. Hope for the best.