It wasn’t a pretty effort by any means, but the Cowboys defeated the Panthers in Carolina on Sunday to go back to .500 on the season at 3-3.
Much like last week’s loss to Baltimore, Dallas dominated time of possession for most of the first half on Sunday but struggled to put points on the board--an effort that included a 90-yard, 10-minute drive on their second offensive possession, on which Tony Romo and co. could only manage a 19-yard Dan Bailey field goal after stalling at the Panthers’ one-yard line.
Carolina looked to be on the verge of taking the lead on the ensuing possession, getting as far as the Dallas six before Morris Claiborne intercepted Cam Newton in the end zone for his first NFL interception.
However, the literally Cowboys fumbled away a chance to take advantage of the turnover. Miles Austin was stripped after making a catch over the middle, on a play that gave Carolina the ball at their own 20 and resulted in Cowboys’ center Phil Costa (who just this week returned to the lineup from injury) being carted off the field with a leg injury. MRIs on Costa's leg were reportedly negative, but he never returned.
Unlike Dallas, Carolina capitalized on their good fortune after the Austin fumble, eventually scoring on a five-yard pass from Newton to Brandon LaFell to take the lead at 7-3 going into halftime.
It was all Cowboys in the third quarter, though that sounds more impressive than it was. Dallas took the lead on a 26-yard touchdown pass from Romo to Miles Austin midway through the period, and Bailey added a 49-yard field goal to make it 13-7 Cowboys going into the final frame.
Carolina briefly took the lead back in the fourth with a 9-play, 75-yard drive--helped along by two costly penalties by the Dallas defense--capped off by a 2-yard touchdown run by Mike Tolbert. But the Cowboys went ahead for good on a 28-yard field goal by Bailey. He added a 38-yarder with less than a minute left to extend the Dallas lead to 19-14 which would hold as the final.
At 3-3, the Cowboys will host the New York Giants next Sunday at Cowboys Stadium.
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