Cowboys Bounce Back in Carolina for 20-13 Win

Tony Romo showed no ill effects of his right thumb injury that he sustained last week against the Eagles, as the Cowboys hung on for a 20-13 win against the Panthers to improve to 13-2 on the season.  Carolina dropped to 6-9 and was eliminated from playoff contention with the loss.  With the win, the Cowboys move just one step away from clinching home-field advantage in the NFC Playoffs.  A Green Bay loss against either the Bears on Sunday or the Lions on the following Sunday clinches it, as well as a Dallas win against the Redskins in the final game of the regular season.

The Cowboys got off to a fast start early on.  On their second drive of the game, Tony Romo led Dallas on a long 13-play drive that was capped off with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Terrell Owens to give the Cowboys a 7-0 lead early. 

Then it was the Marion Barber Show early in the 2nd quarter.  He chewed up 63 yards on an 80-yard drive that ended in a Marion Barber 5-yard touchdown plunge to extend the Dallas lead to 14-0.  However, on the previous play, Terrell Owens was injured on a first down catch at the Carolina 5.  He has a high ankle sprain.  X-Rays were negative and an MRI is scheduled for Sunday.  He may not be ready next week, but could return for the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

The Panthers struck back quickly though, as former Cowboys backup quarterback Matt Moore found Dante Rosario for 13 yards and then after a 39-yard run from DeAngelo Williams, found Steve Smith in the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown to cut the Cowboys lead to 14-7. 

The Cowboys tacked on a field to make it 17-7 at halftime.  The Cowboys missed an opportunity to make it even bigger as they didn’t have enough time to get their field goal unit on the field with no timeouts left. 

In the 2nd half, the offenses were stagnant and the defense tightened.  Carolina outscored Dallas 6-3 in the 2nd half, but it wasn’t enough.  Two first downs by Marion Barber III sealed the 20-13 win for Dallas.

Tony Romo looked more like himself against Carolina, completing 28/42 passes for 257 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT. 

Marion Barber III had a season-high in rushing.  He carried the ball 22 times for 110 yards while Julius Jones ran it 9 times for just 25 yards.  It is becoming clearer every week that Marion Barber is our true starter in the backfield, despite only being in the game on every other offensive possession.

Patrick Crayton reeled in 7 catches for 65 yards while Jason Witten caught 6 passes for 53 yards.  Before leaving the game with a high ankle sprain, Terrell Owens had 5 receptions for 48 yards and a TD.

Nick Folk was 2/2 on field goals in the game.  He connected from 42 and 23 yards out.  He was also 2/2 on extra points.

The Dallas defense is improving regularly every week now.  Again they were stifling, even without Roy Williams or backup safety Pat Watkins.  Terence Newman was even hurt for much of that game as well.  They held Carolina to just 216 yards of total offense.  The defense recorded 5 sacks.  DeMarcus Ware had 2 sacks, while Greg Ellis and Tank Johnson recorded 1 sack each, although Tank was called for leading with his helmet.  Chris Canty and Jay Ratliff each got credit for 0.5 sack each.  Anthony Henry made the only interception for the Cowboys in the game.

In addition to Terrell Owens’ s injury, Terence Newman, Bradie James, and Jay Ratliff were also injured.  Although all three returned to the game, Terence Newman did not look like himself for the rest of the game.

So with only one game left in the regular season, the Cowboys will still maintain their lead over the Packers in the race for home-field advantage.  It was a little closer than I would’ve liked it to be, but a win is a win.  The final game of the regular season is at Washington on December 30.  If we get help from the Bears this Sunday we won’t have to worry about winning that game, which would be nice to rest a lot of the starters that have been injured the last couple of weeks.