It wasn’t pretty, but it was efficient as the T.O.’less Cowboys relied on Barber and the running game to close out the Panthers for a 20-13 win at Carolina. Barber and Jones combined for over 150-yards rushing and Romo threw for a one touchdown and had an interception to lead Dallas to the victory.
Terrell Owens left for the locker room just before halftime after spraining his ankle on a 3rd down catch deep in Carolina’s end of the field to convert for a first down that led to a 22-yard Nick Folk FG. He also caught a 10-yard TD pass from Romo in the first quarter to start the scoring.
Steve Smith, who had a good game as well, then caught his own 10-yard TD pass to narrow the lead to 14-7. Smith had 9 catches for 137-yards and a TD to lead Carolina in their attempt to upset the Cowboys.
But the big star of the evening was Marion Barber who’s 63 total yards on the way to a 75-yard drive capped by his 7-yard TD run put Dallas in the lead for good. He also closed out the game in the 4th quarter with two big first down runs. He finished the night with 110-yards and the one TD.
Terrence Newman was also slightly injured during the game and left for several plays in the second quarter, but returned and played most of the second half. He didn’t appear completely healthy and Smith took advantage of him on several plays, but the defense came up with some key sacks on Moore. DeMarcus Ware had two 1/2 sacks with help from Ratliff and then Canty as Canty had one on his own and Ellis also came up with another sack. Tank Johnson got a sack but was called for roughing the passer as he had helmet-to-helmet contact on the play, giving Carolina a first and goal from the Dallas 10-yard line. They would hold the Panthers to just a FG on the drive though, which basically preserved the win.
There will be alot of discussion about some of the penalty calls and no-calls, but as far as I could tell, the rules were followed with the exception of the no-call on Jacques Reeves’ play on a crucial 3rd and nine for Carolina that could have given them a first down inside Dallas territory late in the fourth. He might have made contact a little early, but it was very hard to tell, especially real-time and the no-catch call on a big pass play to Steve Smith was close also, but the rule was followed correctly, in my opinion.
Matt Moore, the rookie ex-Cowboy QB who was picked up on waivers after Dallas reluctantly cut him in the preseason, played well with most of his success coming on passes to Smith. He will be a good QB in the NFL and it’s a shame the Cowboys couldn’t have kept him on their roster.
This win makes it imperative for Dallas to win next week at Washington or for Green Bay to lose to rival Chicago tomorrow to clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs. It also set a club record for road wins at 10-straight since last season to tonight and the second 13-win regular season in francise history! Way to go Cowboys! I think they are going to make it all the way to the big game this year for the first time since 1995.