ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 28: Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys looks at the Carolina Panthers line on the field at Cowboys Stadium on September 28, 2009 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
The reason for this--besides the all too simple "the team was playing like garbage"--is that Dallas' offense managed to shoot themselves in the foot, seemingly, on every drive of the half. It wasn't necessarily that Carolina's defense was playing that well. They weren't and, really, they haven't, at all, in 2009.
Missing two key starters on defense, though, Carolina held Dallas to one ill-fated field goal attempt. It was painful and, if nothing else, boo-worthy.
"We killed ourselves in the first half," said Roy Williams, after the win. "We're used scoring 30 points. We killed ourselves in the first half, with so many 2nd-and-20s and 3rd-and-78s."
That Dallas came back in the second half with two offensive touchdowns, eventually coming away with a win, shouldn't veil this very real problem. Wade Phillips, before Monday, was quick to point out that Dallas was the least penalized team in the league after two games. But on Monday, Dallas commited nine fouls--more than half of their season total (17)--making them the fifth most penalized in terms of yardage.
If the Cowboys have any hope of beating a potentially devastating defense at home, in Denver, this is an ill that must be remedied. Despite the perceived weakness in schedule over their first three game--Cincinnati, Cleveland, Oakland--the fact that Denver has allowed the third-fewest points over the first three games in NFL history indicates more than favorable scheduling.
"I think they're really that good," said Jason Witten, of Denver's defense. "I just think the pre-snap and post-snap penalties, those things were killing us [against Carolina]. Any time you have 470 yards of offense and one touchdown to show for it, and a couple field goals, you can't put yourself in those situations. You're going to get beat that way.
"We have to clean that up, playing on the road against a good team that's pretty smart."