CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Simply put, the Cowboys missed Anthony Spencer during his two-game absence.
Needless to say, he was welcomed with open arms in his return Sunday against the Panthers. Whether or not Spencer has fully recovered from a pectoral strain, he was healthy enough to be a defensive difference-maker in the Cowboys' 19-14 win over the Panthers.
Spencer had been applying pressure on Cam Newton all afternoon, then finally got the Carolina quarterback on the ground during the final possession.
Spencer's sack was his third of the season (in just four games so far) and was basically the final nail in the coffin, as the Panthers were trying for one last drive.
"I missed (Newton) twice earlier in the game and so just to get that one at the end, it felt good," Spencer said.
Getting back on the field was a good feeling, Spencer said, but not the best part of the day.
"It felt real good to get out there again, but it felt even better to get the win," Spencer said. "It was a team effort. It was real good coverage. He was holding the ball for a while. I thought we did a nice job against him all game. He's tough, but we held it together."
The official stat sheet following the game credits Spencer with six tackles, including one for loss, a sack and quarterback hit - not a bad afternoon for a guy who admitted it was difficult to sit out the last two games, which spanned three weeks because of the bye.
"It's real tough. I'm a football player," Spencer said. "That's what I do. That's my life. I play football. So, I mean, it was tough. But at the same time, injuries happen and you've just got to roll with the punches."
There have been plenty of proverbial punches thrown Spencer's way, considering his first-round draft pick status of 2007 and the fact he's never had more than 6.0 sacks in a season. Spencer signing an $8.8 million franchise tag for this year also raised a few eyebrows from skeptics who questioned his overall production.
It's safe to say Spencer's value has been evident, especially in the last two games he missed. The Cowboys tried to make up for his absence with a combination of Victor Butler as a pass-rusher and Alex Albright against the run.
When asked if he was missed, Spencer refused to pat himself on the back.
"I don't really like to judge myself. I judge myself but at the same time, I just go out there and try to make as many plays as possible," Spencer said. "As long as the people in this (locker) room realize that, my teammates and my coaches, I could care less about what everybody else thinks."
After being out for two games and then being so impactful Sunday in Carolina, it's hard to imagine too many people not thinking Spencer is a real value to the defense.