CHARLOTTE, N.C.– The Cowboys' secondary finally got one of those "takeovers" defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was looking for.
Ryan changed the name of turnovers to takeovers earlier this week, since the cornerbacks had trouble creating turnovers through six weeks. While it probably had nothing to do with the name change, Morris Claiborne delivered the Dallas secondary's first interception of the season just a few days later.
The rookie cornerback recorded his first career interception on a second-and-goal pass from quarterback Cam Newton in the Cowboys' end zone with Dallas leading, 3-0.
"They felt like I'd be a good addition to this team to come in and be able to make plays," Claiborne said. "I just try to hold my end up."
Defensive tackle Josh Brent provided pressure in Newton's face, forcing an errant low pass that Claiborne snagged right as the ball was inches from hitting the ground.
"It's one of those things where they were going under and I was trailing a man," Claiborne said. "Thank God the (defensive) line got there and put a little pressure on the quarterback and made him do some things he didn't want to do with the ball."
The Panthers had varied success throwing Claiborne's way, which they did perhaps more than any opponent this year. Claiborne always seemed to be near the ball on passing plays, including on a fourth-and-1 at Carolina's 40-yard line with 2:11 remaining in the game and the Cowboys leading by two points.
Newton looked for wide receiver Lewis Murphy, but the pass was broken up by Claiborne. The Panthers pleaded for a flag on the contended throw, though Claiborne claims he didn't hit Murphy early.
"It was man-to-man and the guy ran a little quick stop route," Claiborne said. "I was blessed enough to come down and break it up. They say that I interfered with him, but I feel like I had good coverage."
Claiborne led all players with two passes defended, but it wasn't all perfect for the rookie. The former LSU cornerback allowed a touchdown to former LSU wide receiver Brandon LaFell just before halftime.
Claiborne said he and LaFell would exchange words between plays, but all the trash talk was good-natured between the former teammates. LaFell got the best of him on the touchdown, which Claiborne said was a result of a miscommunication.
Despite the touchdown allowed, Claiborne will be remembered more for the late breakup on the pass for Murphy and the intercepted pass. He just hopes he'll be able to get the ball.
"They've got it here somewhere," Claiborne said. "I hope they didn't lose it."