Tony Romo remained on his back after being sacked, almost motionless for a short time while looking up at the stadium's closed roof above him.
The Dallas Cowboys quarterback knew that he had likely re-injured his left collarbone. His already-shortened season might be done, along with the team's faint playoff chances.
"You can hear something happen, you're just disappointed, frustrated," said Romo, describing the injury as similar to what he felt when he broke his collarbone in Week 2 against Philadelphia before missing seven games -- all losses.
Romo was injured Thursday on the final play of the third quarter in a 33-14 loss to the undefeated Carolina Panthers. He fell hard on his left shoulder after being sacked by linebacker Thomas Davis.
Four days after Romo's return in a win at Miami, the loss in their annual Thanksgiving Day game likely ended any shot of the Cowboys (3-8) recovering to defend their NFC East title.
Owner Jerry Jones said the team needs more information to know Romo's status for the rest of the season, and the 35-year-old quarterback will have more tests Friday. Coach Jason Garrett said X-rays taken when Romo came out of the game were inconclusive.
"It's in the same shoulder that he was out for ... so that is a concern from the standpoint of the games ahead," Jones said.
While Romo's left arm was in a sling, he was able to leave the stadium driving his car after playing his first game at home since the season opener.
Dallas already trailed 30-6 when Romo got hurt. The Panthers (11-0) had three interceptions before halftime, and returned two of those for touchdowns. Linebacker Luke Kuechly intercepted two straight passes, returning the first 32 yards for a touchdown, and setting up a field goal at the end of the half with the second.
"It was tough. We worked hard to come back. Feel like in some ways I just couldn't quite get myself into the same mental framework," Romo said. "When I say that, I mean just the way that I'm used to playing. I needed to take a little more time. Some of the decisions and poor decisions that I made were just uncharacteristic and very frustrating and cost our team today. I'm just disappointed I wasn't able to play better."
Romo finished 11 of 21 for 106 yards with a 27.2 passer rating.
Safety Kurt Coleman picked off Romo's second pass less than a minute into the game and took it back 36 yards for a score.
"Well, we got a lot of help from our defense," Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said. "Defense went out there and brought their A-game and made our job a lot easier."
After Romo was hurt in Philadelphia, he went on injured reserve with a designation to return -- and his first game eligible to play again was Sunday against the Dolphins.
Dallas didn't win without him. Brandon Weeden went 0-3 as a starter before Matt Cassel took over and lost all four of his starts.
"You're always chancing it when you come back," Romo said.
We wouldn't let Tony play if he wasn't ready to play physically," Garrett said. "There's no evidence that we brought him back too soon."