The scouting report on Carolina's all-everything quarterback Cam Newton this year has been keep him in the pocket, don't let him break loose, let him beat you with his arm and not bring his legs into the equation.
Although Newton's talents and more untimely penalties by the Cowboys nearly cost them, Dallas was able to come back for a 19-14 victory in Charlotte, Tony Romo answering his counterpart by leading the team to two field goals in the fourth quarter to give his team the win.
Romo finished the game with 227 yards on 24-of-34 passing, tossing one touchdown, and more importantly, not turning the ball over once. Most of that yardage went to Miles Austin, the receiver finishing with five catches for 97 yards and the score. Tight end Jason Witten added six receptions for 44 yards while Dez Bryant totaled only two grabs for 14 yards.
Running was tough throughout the day for Dallas, the team earning 85 yards on the ground. Without the presence of DeMarco Murray, Felix Jones picked up 44 yards on 15 tries with Phillip Tanner collecting 30 yards on 13 carries, most of his work coming in the fourth quarter.
On the other side of the ball, the Dallas defense struggled at times with containing Newton and his Panthers' unit. Carolina finished with 328 total yards (to the Cowboys' 312) with the quarterback good on 21-of-37 passing for 233 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The always tough Steve Smith, led his team with seven catches for 83 yards.
Carolina's running attack, again led primarily by Newton, who finished with a game-high 64 yards on the ground, totaled 112 yards on the afternoon. But, it wasn't enough, the Cowboys defense able to finally cage the Panthers late in the game to secure the win.
The Cowboys got rolling midway through the first quarter when they went on a lengthy 18-play, 91-yard drive that ate up an incredible 10:10 minutes off the clock. But, they couldn't get in the end zone, Romo hitting Austin for a 6-yard gain to the Carolina 1 on a third-and-goal from the 7-yard line. On came Dan Bailey for a chip-shot field goal and a 3-0 lead.
But while the Panthers could do nothing in the first quarter, Newton began to create yardage in the second frame, both through the air and on the ground. Starting at its own 20-yard line, Carolina marched all the way down to the Dallas 6-yard line, the big blow a 24-yard scramble by Newton on a third-and-8.
Fortunately, though, rookie Morris Claiborne picked the perfect time for his first career interception, as he dove to grab a Newton offering in the end zone, the Cowboys getting the ball at their own 20.
And back they want, the Cowboys crossing midfield to the Carolina 48-yard line when Romo hit Austin over the middle on what looked to be a big gain. Instead, Austin had the ball stripped loose, Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly scooping the prize up to give the home team possession with just over four minutes left in the half.
To make matters worse, center Phil Costa, who missed the first three games of the season with a back injury, was perhaps lost for the year when he rolled his left ankle on the play. Costa was superb in the previous week at Baltimore when the Cowboys racked up 227 yards rushing.
From there, Newton couldn't be stopped. He accounted for all 80 yards in the ensuing Panthers series, passing for 60 of those and running for the other 20, including busting out of the pack and darting down the right sideline for 15 yards and a first down.
A 32-yard connection with Brandon LaFell on the left side followed soon thereafter, Carolina eventually working their way down to first and goal at the Dallas 5 with 32 seconds left in the quarter. Then, on third-and-5, Newton went back to LaFell on the left side, the receiver diving to the pylon to give the Panthers a 7-3 lead at the half.
Through the first 30 minutes of the game, Dallas dominated in the first quarter, while Carolina did so in the second, the numbers at the break more or less even, the Cowboys with a 15:40 to 14:20 advantage in time of possession, but the Panthers putting up 182 yards, of which Newton was responsible for 164, with Dallas totaling 140 yards.
Austin redeemed himself, though. After the two teams traded possessions to start the third quarter, the Cowboys got going at their own 37 after a 29-yard Panther punt. After a holding penalty pushed them back 10 yards, Romo went to Kevin Ogletree for 11 yards, then found Austin on a slant over the middle for a nice 36-yard gain to the Carolina 26.
Romo then went right back to No. 19, lofting a perfect pass into the left corner of the end zone, Austin running under it for the score and a 10-7 advantaged for the Cowboys.
Dallas added another three points later in the quarter on a 49-yard field goal by Dan Bailey, making the score 13-7. Which was better than nothing, considering that they had a third-and-4 at the Carolina 26 before a false-start penalty on right tackle Doug Free made it a third-and-9. That was followed by what would have been a first-down pass to Witten slipping through the tight end's hands.
The Cowboys suffered another blow to their starting lineup in the third quarter when linebacker Sean Lee left the game with a right foot injury. Fortunately, though, Carolina continued to struggle on offense, the Cowboys maintaining their lead as the fourth quarter got underway.
But switching to a hurry-up offense, just as they did late in the second quarter, the Panthers then got moving. Dallas had trouble slowing down their opponent, although they helped Carolina immensely with two costly penalties, the Cowboys hurting themselves again.
Already on the Dallas 19-yard line, but facing second-and-10, Newton hit tight end Greg Olsen for 9 yards, but a personal foul on nose tackle Jay Ratliff after the play provided another five yards and a first down. Then, on third-and-goal, cornerback Brandon Carr got called for pass interference in the end zone on an incomplete pass, the Panthers handed a new set of downs instead of having to settle for the field goal. They only needed one more snap, as fullback Mike Tolbert charged in from the Dallas 2-yard line, Carolina taking a 14-13 lead.
Now it was Romo's turn, though. After the two sides traded possessions, Dallas took over at its 46-yard line and quickly worked down the field. With Romo hitting Tanner underneath for 8 yards and finding Witten for 11 along the way, the Cowboys found themselves at the Carolina 15 and facing second-and-9.
And they could have, probably should have had a touchdown. Romo hit a streaking Bryant down the right sideline, but under pressure, Bryant had the ball bounce off his hands. Dallas then dialed up a safe 5-yard run by Tanner to set Bailey up for a 28-yard field goal. His kick was good, the Cowboys back on top, 16-14 with just over three minutes remaining.
Dallas then nearly did it to themselves again. On fourth-and-2, Carolina gave no indication that they would punt, yet the Cowboys' special teams unit came on the field. Then in scrambling to try and get the defense back on, the Panthers snapped the ball, which would have been a penalty. Thankfully, Dallas called timeout just in time and were able to reset.
They then kept the Panthers from converting on fourth down, Dallas taking over at the Carolina 39 with 2:08 left to play. Thanks to a horse-caller penalty that moved the ball down to the Panthers 24, the Cowboys were able to tack on a 38-yard field goal from Bailey with 58 seconds left to secure the game, 19-14.
With the win, Dallas evened their record to 3-3 and now head home to face their division rivals from New York, the Giants, next Sunday.