Panthers-Cowboys report card

CHARLOTTE, NC — The Carolina Panthers continued their 2012 swoon with a 16-14 home loss to the equally desperate Dallas Cowboys on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium.

As a result, the Panthers dropped to 1-5 on the season and are nearly a virtual lock to miss the playoffs once again despite that being the team’s stated mission in preseason camp.

The following are both teams’ grades in Carolina’s fifth defeat in six tries and Dallas’ third victory in six games:

Cowboys offense:
Tony Romo didn’t have a great day but he was pretty solid in completing 24 of 34 pass attempts for 227 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. He hit on a few key passes that helped offset a so-so ground game that managed just 85 yards. Miles Austin had nine receptions for 97 yards and a score. The offense also did a nice job of keeping Carolina’s offense off the field by owning the time of possession battle by seven minutes. Grade: B-.

Panthers offense: Cam Newton was 21-for-37 for 233 yards, a touchdown and interception, and he ran six times for 64 yards, 45 coming on consecutive carries that chewed up 24 and 21 yards, respectively. But he still made more than a handful of poor decisions, didn’t appear to lead much, and didn’t have the same spirit about him as a year ago. In addition, Carolina ran for just 48 yards aside from Newton’s numbers. Grade: D.

Cowboys defense:
Very good. It limited Carolina to 328 total yards, but more important is it made big plays when called on. It forced Carolina into a 2-for-10 afternoon trying to convert 3rd downs and 0-2 on fourth down. It tackled well and its corners didn’t allow the Panthers to run many clean routes. Grade: B.

Panthers defense: Better than it has been, especially in limiting the Cowboys to 312 total yards and 0-for-3 in the red zone. Tackling was still an issue at times, and with veteran linebacker Jon Beason out with an injury, the unit appeared to lack leadership as well, though James Anderson and rookie Luke Keuchly made some progress in that respect. But overall, this unit did plenty enough right it should be able to build on. Grade: B.

Cowboys intangibles:
They made more winning plays. Other than a few questionable passes, Romo managed the game well, the special teams was solid, and 6 penalties for 43 yards are not a problem. Road wins don’t come easy, especially when visiting a desperate team. Solid win for the Cowboys. Grade: B+.

Panthers intangibles:
Inside the walls of this game the Panthers didn’t self-destruct much. It missed on a few opportunities to make plays, was flagged 9 times for 71 yards, and had some breakdowns in responsibilities. But it wasn’t a mistake-ridden performance by any means. But it was a loss, and at now 1-5, the team simply couldn’t afford another defeat. Grade: B-.