The Cowboys players reflect on yesterday's game but also realize that it is just one game in a long season against a tough schedule.
The Cowboys have allowed only nine sacks on 231 pass atempts for a sack rate of 3.8%. There are only three teams in the league (NYG, HOU, BUF) with a better sack percentage. This may not fit the popular narrative, but Tony Romo recognizes the offensive line for a "phenomenal" job:
"I think there were just a couple plays that I got the ball off quickly just to help, but other than those, they did a phenomenal job of just allowing me to go through the progressions and get the ball to different guys," Romo said of the offensive line.
The stat sheet shows Anthony Spencer with six tackles (one for loss), a sack and quarterback hit. The sack was his third in his foruth game and came at a highly opportune moment:
"I missed (Newton) twice earlier in the game and so just to get that one at the end, it felt good," Spencer said.
"It felt real good to get out there again, but it felt even better to get the win," Spencer said. "It was a team effort. It was real good coverage. He was holding the ball for a while. I thought we did a nice job against him all game. He’s tough, but we held it together."
The Cowboys didn't have a great game on the ground, only managaing a succes rate (Success: 45 percent of needed yards on 1st down; 60 percent 2nd down; converting on 3rd or 4th down) of 29%, meaning they were "successful" on only 9 of 31 runs. This does not compare favorably to the Baltimore game, where they had a 55% success rate (23 of 42 runs). But while the Cowboys didn't put up great numbers, they feel they ran tough.
"It’s a mindset," Phillip Tanner said. "You can’t just look at the stats and say, ‘OK, we didn’t have any big runs.’ Like coach (Jason Garrett) tells us, it’s the nondescript plays, that are probably not going to show up on ESPN, but they’re key plays in the game."
After going 4-for-4 yesterday against the Panthers, Dan Bailey took the time to reflect on last week's missed 51-yard attempt against the Ravens.
"Last week was tough," Bailey said. "It’s just a tough situation. It’s kind of hard to swallow sometimes. But it was good to go out there this week, and when the opportunities came up, I was able to put them through."
The stat sheet never accurately reflects what the nose tackles do in a game, and yesterday both Jay Ratliff and Josh Brent were very disruptive in the middle. Ratliff said the pressure of having to deliver is something the Dallas defense craves:
"We have a lot of guys who are not going to run from responsibility and we fully took on all of our roles," Ratliff said. "We’re a team of men. Tough situations, that’s just how we want it. We’ve got broad shoulders for a reason."
Miles Austin looked to be in a bit of hot water after his lack of hustle at the end of the Baltimore game and the fumble early against Carolina. But he bounced back nicely with five catches for 97 yards and a touchdown.
"The fumble was a terrible thing to do," Austin said. "We coach-up not to do things like that. The ball is very important to us. It has to be. When that happens, there’s nothing you can do after it already happens. It’s a preventive type of deal. But after it happened, the only thing you can do is continue to go out there and play hard."
"Really, to be honest, the win is all that matters to me personally," Austin said. "So you know, as long as we won, to be honest, I’m OK with whatever the outcome is."
Dan Connor has been the odd man out at inside linebacker far the first five games, but with Sean Lee sidelined due to an injury, Connor suddenly found himself in the spotlight in an unfamiliar position.
"That WILL is kind of a different animal than the MIKE,’ " Connor said. "Sean makes a ton of plays. Going in there, it’s hard to match that. I was just trying to do my best to try to live up to it."
"My role has been so different year to year," said Connor, who played 108 special teams plays the first five games. "Even with Carolina, my first year and my second year, I was a special teams guy, a core special teams guy and the next two years, I was the starter. In the NFL, your role changes every single year, and you just want to be prepared to go in there, and you want to do your part on special teams and just always be ready to go. It’s a long season."
Sean Lee's was very complimentary about his college teammate:
"I thought Dan Connor did a great job stepping up today," Lee said. "He stepped into a position he doesn’t play a lot and almost had an interception and made some tackles. He did a really good job."
Center Ryan Cook was unexpectedly thrown into action yesterday after Phil Costa went down with an injury. Not an unfamiliar situation for the veteran center, and one that apparently doesn't bother him:
“I prepare the same every week whether I’m starting or not starting because these situations happen all the time,” Cook said. “You’re always one play away. This time it happened at halftime. Against the Giants it was three plays in. So I prepare the same way so you can never be tricked into not knowing what you’re doing.”
“It felt good to get back out there and get back in the mix,” Cook said. “I thought the continuity was good on the offensive line considering we played the three previous games together, excluding Baltimore.”
The Cowboys are happay to have gotten the win in Carolina, but they also realize that it is just one game in a long season against a tough schedule. Leave it to Jason Witten to put the win into the proper context:
“We’ve got a tough stretch coming up,” tight end Jason Witten said. “We know what New York is like, how good a game that is. We’ve got to clean it up and get better. Three and three through six games, we know what lies ahead and how we’ll need to play.”