ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 28: Tashard Choice #23 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates with teammate Marc Colombo #75 after rushing for a touchdown in the third quarter against the Carolina Panthers at Cowboys Stadium on September 28, 2009 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
The first was a grotesque mess of bad play-calling on the part of Jason Garrett, and a study in how not to tackle by Dallas' defense, the secondary (and Terence Newman) in particular. The second, of course, saw Dallas dominate a team that really had no business being in the game at that point in the first place--and noticeably less sloppy tackling and bad play calling (though both reared their ugly heads, at times).
Dallas failed to make the best of an impressive start by the Marion-Barber-less running game, allowing Carolina to score first on a pass to Dante Rosario in the second quarter; the touchdown (and extra point) would stand as the only points scored by either team in the first half.
After coming out of halftime down seven, though, the Cowboys' defense took the field in the manner Dallas fans had hoped they would in weeks one and two, harassing Jake Delhomme consistently on their way to a 3 sack, 3 turnover (2 interceptions and a fumble) performance.
Nick Folk got the scoring started, booting a 24 yard field goal about three minutes into the half. After a defensive stop, Dallas struck again, as Tashard Choice capped a 58-yard drive with a 5-yard run for a touchdown. Nick Folk added a field goal and Terence Newman grabbed an interception for a touchdown in the fourth, to put Dallas up 12 with about 5 minutes left to play.
Tashard Choice ran in the two-point conversion to make it 21 unanswered points for Dallas, and all but ensure Carolina's third loss in as many tries in 2009.
The play of the game was probably Newman's aforementioned pick-six in the waning minutes of the last frame, as, with a seven point lead, he stepped in front of Carolina's Steve Smith (who may or may not have broken off the route) on a slant, grabbing an easy interception and an almost-as-easy touchdown.
Victor Butler's sack/ forced fumble was the final nail in the coffin, as the ball popped from Delhomme's grasp and found its way into the arms of Jason Hatcher with a little over a minute remaining, sending Carolina to an 0-3 start.
Before Monday, Dallas' much criticized defense had yet to record a turnover or a sack.