CHARLOTTE, N.C. – There wasn't a ton of scoring, but enough big plays for both teams that will be remembered in the Cowboys' 19-14 win at Bank of America Stadium over the Panthers.
As usual, there were some that might be overlooked, but still played a big part. Here's a handful of plays or events that altered the flow of the game.
1. Romo's Early Miss – Tony Romo was hot early on, connecting on his first eight passes and picking the Panthers apart underneath. But on a third-and-goal from the Panthers' 6, Romo uncharacteristically overthrew a wide-open Miles Austin in what would've been the first touchdown. Instead, the Cowboys settled for a field goal despite an 18-play, 89-yard drive that chewed up 10 minutes of game clock. Just getting a field goal was somewhat demoralizing for the Cowboys and gave the Panthers some momentum. A touchdown like that would've put more pressure on Cam Newton and the Panthers, which could've led to more mistakes.
2. Murphy's Drop – The Cowboys had just taken a 10-7 lead on Austin's 26-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter. The Panthers had a third-and-15 from their own 11. Newton fired a strike to receiver Louis Murphy on the Cowboys' sideline for what appeared to be a 16-yard grab, but Murphy couldn't hang onto the ball as he hit the ground and it forced a punt. The Cowboys would get great field position (Carolina 40) and add to their lead with a field goal.
3. Former draft pick flagged for holding– Leading 10-7 and looking for more points, the Cowboys had a third-and-7 from the Panthers' 37 and Romo threw an incomplete pass over the middle. However, Panthers cornerback Josh Thomas (a Cowboys fifth-round draft pick in 2011), was flagged for defensive holding, a five-yard penalty that extended the drive. The Cowboys would've likely had to punt there rather than kick a 54-yard field goal. Instead, they were able to get a few more yards and Bailey nailed a 49-yarder to give the Cowboys a 13-7 lead.
4. Romo's near pick– Romo snapped a six-game streak of throwing at least one interception on Sunday. But he did have a close call early in the fourth quarter. With a 13-7 lead, Romo tried to force a pass into Jason Witten's hands, but the ball was knocked down by linebacker James Anderson, who had two hands on it for a near-pick. The Cowboys still had to punt to the Panthers, who eventually scored a touchdown. But an interception there, so close to the end zone, could've been disastrous for the Cowboys and might have changed their aggression in the play-calling as the game went on.
5. Cowboys timeout– The Panthers trailed 16-14 in the final two minutes and picked up 11 yards to Steve Smith that set up fourth-and-1 at their own 40. There was mass confusion for the Cowboys, who had too many players on the field and were trying to call a timeout before the Panthers snapped the ball. While the timeout was granted, Newton still fired a pass in the flat for what looked like a first down. But with the play negated, the Panthers tried a different play and Newton went over the middle to Murphy. The pass was broken up by Morris Claibrone, turning the ball over to the Cowboys on down. Dallas would add a field goal.
- Claiborne's interception in the end zone, keeping points off the board in the first quarter. The first career pick by the Cowboys' first-round draft pick should be rather memorable.
- Kevin Ogletree's 11-yard catch on a second-and-20 play gave the Cowboys a manageable third-down possession, which Austin converted for 26 yards, setting up the touchdown pass on the next play.
- Just before Bailey's go-ahead field goal, Romo was fortunate to get one hand on a premature shotgun snap. He caught the ball and fired a strike to Bryant, who couldn't catch the ball in the end zone. Still, Romo saved a potential turnover.
- Phillip Tanner was taken to the ground on a horse-collar penalty that gave the Cowboys a first down and set up another field goal for a 19-14 lead.