Dallas 21, Carolina 7: Newman’s Pick-6 Secures Win (But Not Garrett’s Reputation)
Dallas 13, Carolina 7.
At that point, Carolina had already completed a 79-yard pass that would have been a touchdown, but it was called back due to a questionable offensive pass interference penalty. Steve Smith had struggled, but there was cause for great concern that Smith could make a big play at any given time.
Dallas held Carolina to a three-and-out, but the offense could not provide a cushion. Carolina got the ball back with 5:57 remaining in the game. On the second play of the drive, Jake Delhomme tried a slant pass to Smith, who stopped. Terence Newman made the pick and ran it in to extend the lead. With the two-point conversion, Dallas led 21-7. From there, the defense stepped up and held the Panthers, giving Dallas the win.
As a very general matter, the Dallas defense looked better than in previous weeks, especially in the second half. The Cowboys recorded three sacks and two interceptions. Two of those sacks came from rookie Victor Butler, who showed more quickness coming around the end than Anthony Spencer has. Mike Jenkins had the other pick, giving the Cowboys their first turnover of the season.
That said, the Cowboys missed a number of tackles yet again. Both Newman and Jenkins missed tackles in the first quarter, and Ken Hamlin completely whiffed trying to tackle Muhsin Muhammad on the play called back due to offensive pass interference.
Hard not to suggest that a training camp without tackling could be a culprit when the team tackles so poorly during the first three weeks of the season.
Marion Barber did not play, but looked as if Felix Jones might end up with more than 200 yards in total offense. He opened the game with a 20-yard reception, and his 40-yard run on the opening drive of the third quarter helped to set up the Cowboys first field goal. Jones injured his knee on the run, leaving Dallas with one back in Tashard Choice. Like he did late in 2008, Choice came through, gaining 82 yards on 19 carries.
The first half was an ugly one for Dallas. The Cowboys moved the ball to the Carolina 12 on the opening drive, but Romo was sacked on a second down play. Dallas could not get into better field goal range, and Nick Folk missed his first field goal of the season.
From that point on, it was a few good plays by Felix Jones, some passes to Jason Witten, and nothing else for the Dallas offense. With the game scoreless, Carolina drove the ball 90 yards to get into Dallas territory. Hamlin appeared to bite on an underneath route, leaving the middle of the field for tight end Dante Rosario, who caught a 25-yard touchdown pass from Delhomme.
The Cowboys drove to the Carolina 1 on the first Dallas drive of the second half. Tashard Choice appeared to score on a dump-off pass from Romo, but the Panthers successfully challenged the play. The Cowboys could not push the ball in on third down. Dallas lined up for a fourth-down play, but third tight end John Phillips pushed the Cowboys back, and the Cowboys had to settle for a field goal.
After holding the Panthers to a three-and-out, the Cowboys drove the ball back to the red zone. Choice scored from five yards out, giving Dallas a lead that it did not relinquish.
The Cowboys (2-1) must now travel to Denver to take on the 3-0 Broncos on Sunday.
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