Cowboys 19, Panthers 14: Dallas Straps on Beer Goggles, Takes Home an Ugly One
Friday afternoon, tragedy struck. America laughed while Big Tex smoldered, fairgoers having no free hands to wipe the tears as they double-fisted turkey legs and corn dogs. With the memory of the deep-fried deity lighting a fire in their collective boots, the Cowboys stormed out of the locker room and blasted the opening kick-off ... out of bounds. It was misfires like that that plauged the Cowboys all day, keeping them from putting any distance between them and the Panthers in a 19-14 win. If you find yourself feeling a little unsatisfied this morning, just keep telling yourself, "The Cowboys won."
dallascowboys.com So, uh, you know, let's try not to lose this thing.
A white-knuckle win against a team that might claim three victories on the year, but a win nonetheless. The difference between 3-3 and 2-4 may not seem like much, but in a clustered NFC East, every victory is precious.
There were still all of the signature markings of a 2012 (or 1998-2011) Cowboys game: inopportune penalties, questionable play calls and an over-reliance on special teams, but sometimes that's what it takes. The ball seemed to bounce the Cowboys' way more often than not, and they leave the Panthers in the rear-view, settling back into that well-worn .500 rut. Let's take a sip of some observations and then chug through the awards.
Hey, At Least The Punt Coverage Is Good: If there was one area that was executed flawlessly by the Cowboys, it was their punting. The mighty leg of Brian Moorman combined with the sure-formed tackling of Eric Frampton and Lance Dunbar resulted in the Panthers averaging one yard per return on four punts. While the on-field performance is fine, it's curious that the Cowboys continue to carry two punters, Moorman and lefty Chris Jones, on the roster. With a team that's been continually bitten by injuries, it seems that offensive line depth or defensive talent would be a higher priority. I suppose when you're busy trying to turn your stadium into Galleria Mall West, things like that go unnoticed.
Cowboys Offense Crushes a Bottle of Ambien: If the Panthers' rushing total of 112 yards seems paltry, then the Cowboys' tally of 85 ground meters is downright embarrassing. With Demarco Murray on the sideline, the combo of Felix Jones and Phillip Tanner struggled for 74 yards on 28 carries against a bottom-feeder Panther rush defense. The passing attack fared only slightly better, keeping the team's head above water with 227 yards.
Romo was efficient and mistake-free, though he did throw a pass directly to stunned Panthers linebacker James Anderson, who dropped the easy pick. Most disturbing of all was the continuing dearth of touchdowns. In order to be an above-.500 team, the Cowboys need to be able to finish drives with seven points as opposed to leaving everything on the foot of Dan Bailey. It cost them the Ravens game and very nearly cost them in Charlotte as well.
Time to Break Out Some More 'Tussin: TIE Phil Costa and Sean Lee -- It seems as though every week has turned into an adventure for the Cowboys medical staff. There hasn't been an entire game this season that has featured the full anticipated starting 11 for the Cowboys' defense. This week, Sean Lee got his turn in the locker room, as he hurt his toe in the third quarter and didn't return. If Lee is lost for even one week, it would be a gigantic blow to the defense. His level of play and familiarity with Rob Ryan's schemes have kept the defense functional these first six weeks.
Lee at least had some company back in the friendly confines, as center Phil Costa suffered an ankle sprain in the second quarter. Jason Garrett deviated from his 10-word press-conference vocabulary to note the injury as "severe," so this one could sting for a while. Fortunately for the Cowboys and backup center Ryan Cook, the Giants are on the table next week, and we all know what happened the last time Cook faced the Giants.
Let's give out a couple awards.