Cowboys rely on ‘D’ in 19-14 win over Carolina

It’s been awhile since the Dallas Cowboys relied this heavily on

their defense.

But that’s exactly what coach Jason Garrett did in Dallas’ 19-14

win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

Faced with a third-and-4 at the Carolina 18 and the Cowboys

leading by two points, Garrett elected to run the ball and kick a

field goal rather than try to deliver a knockout punch with his

offense. In so doing, he put his defense on the field with 53

seconds left to close out the game.

They answered the call, stopping the Panthers at midfield.

Garrett said he made the decision to run the ball because he was

confident his defense, ranked second in the league, could hold the


”We trust our defense immensely,” Garrett said. ”Our defense

is outstanding and they’ve played great all year long.”

”Defensively, when were out there it’s all about closing the

game,” defensive end DeMarcus Ware said. ”(Garrett) having the

confidence in the defense and saying OK we’re going to kick a field

goal and leave you guys out there, I know you guys are ready for

this challenge.”

While Tony Romo would have loved a chance to throw the ball at

that point, he said he agreed with the call.

”You weigh what coverages they’ve been playing throughout the

day,” Romo said. ”You also look at how well your defense has

played throughout the day. … It’s very hard to be in their

position, 53 seconds left, and you need a touchdown.”

Romo knows how to win a close game, something Cam Newton and the

Carolina Panthers still haven’t figured out.

Romo led the Cowboys into field-goal range and Dan Bailey

converted a 28-yarder with 3:25 remaining to lift the Dallas

Cowboys to a 19-14 win on Sunday.

Bailey had four field goals and Romo threw for 227 yards and a

touchdown as the Cowboys defeated the Panthers for the ninth

straight time in the regular season. The win snapped a two-game

losing streak for the Cowboys (3-3) and helped ease some pressure

from their highly criticized 31-29 loss to Baltimore last week in a

game marred by poor clock management.

”When you think about some of the adversity we’ve encountered

this season, our focus remains on just getting better,” Ware said.

”We have been doing that, and this week being able to go out and

close a game let us know that hey, we can do it.”

Romo said the Cowboys never bought into the idea that the sky

was falling after last week’s loss.

”You know that every week you’re either great or terrible – or

at least semi-terrible or semi-great,” Romo said. ”What you find

in this league is all you need to do is figure out how to get

better and play your best football when it counts.”

Just in case everyone wasn’t buying in, Cowboys coach Jason

Garrett invited former Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs – yes,

their old rival – to speak to players at the team’s chapel service

Saturday night.

Gibbs’ message was that everyone makes mistakes, but what’s

important is how you handle adversity.

The Cowboys seemed to listen.

”We did a good job of bouncing back and finding a way to win a

game today,” Garrett said.

For the Panthers (1-5) it was a case of another game in which

they were close enough to win in the fourth quarter but couldn’t

finish. Carolina had similar chances in their two previous games

against Atlanta and Seattle.

Newton, who finished 21 of 37 for 233 yards with one touchdown

and an early interception in the red zone, said he doesn’t know why

the Panthers can’t win close games.

”Whether it’s me, I don’t know. Whether it’s the coordinator, I

don’t know. Whether it’s the players overall, I don’t know,”

Newton said. ”(But) we got to change that man.”

The Panthers finished fifth in points last season, averaging

25.3 points per game, but have scored more than 14 points in only

two of their six games this year.

”Instead of keeping the game close, I’m looking forward to a

game where I … we put up 35 points. Everybody does,” Newton


This game had its share of drama – and controversy.

On a fourth-and-1 at their 39 with 2:11 remaining and trailing

by two, the Panthers caught Dallas’ defense trying to change

personnel, and Newton rushed to the line. He quickly took the snap

and completed a pass to Greg Olsen for an apparent first down, but

officials ruled the Cowboys called timeout before the snap.

On the next play, cornerback Morris Claiborne collided with

Panthers receiver Louis Murphy before the ball arrived, but no flag

was thrown and the Cowboys took over on downs.

”I felt like I got pushed early,” Murphy said. ”He kind of

hooked me and pushed me in the back before the ball got


Claiborne saw it differently.

”I felt I had good coverage,” he said.

NOTES: Cowboys WR Dez Bryant started despite a groin injury. On

Bryant’s first play he was penalized for unnecessary roughness

after shoving Panthers players following a punt return. … Cowboys

C Phil Costa was carted off the field in the second quarter with

his right leg in an air cast.

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