As the Cowboys shuffled off the field at halftime I had one thought in my mind. I was thinking that if this team is really a playoff team then they will come out in the second half with a new attitude. Two quarters later I felt a giant sense of relief as the defense completely shut down Carolina during the second half. The offense was a little off all night whether it be penalties, sacks, or just bad play calling. But they scored enough points to give the team the lead and the defense sealed the deal with a touchdown late in the 4th quarter. The Cowboys did not play a great game but they did show that they fight through a slow start. I came away from the game satisfied with the win but there are a lot of problems that need to be corrected with this team.
Reasons to Celebrate: The defense finally showed up this season. Three sacks, three turnovers and a timely return for a touchdown to close out the game. Four straight three and outs to start the second half. It was very impressive to see what the defense can do when they play aggressive football. Say what you want about Terence Newman but the guy knows how to handle Steve Smith. He has done it in the past and he had Steve Smith frustrated again. On offense, the running game continues to dominate. Tony Romo did a good job protecting the ball. The special teams kept the Panthers pinned on their own end of the field all night long.
Reasons to Worry: Felix Jones is starting to earn the name Mr. Glass in my book. I hate that he seems to get up limping after every carry and his injuries always come on plays that don't even involve big hits. Jason Garrett is still making bad play calls at critical times. The opposing defense might be begging you to run the fade route from the one yard line, but sometimes you need to just line up and pound the ball into the end zone. The field goal instead of a touchdown in the fourth quarter could have cost the team the game. Run the ball! And I know a lot of people love Martellus Bennett, but I don't trust that guy with the game on the line. He cut off the route when Romo expected him to run to the corner of the end zone. Martellus needs to worry less about Marty B TV and more about his playbook during the week. And the penalties at the worst possible times have got to stop.
More Reasons to Worry: The secondary has to be the worst tackling secondary in the NFL. Running up and throwing a shoulder into a player may seem like a great way to deliver a big hit, but when you don't hit the guy square then he breaks free for more yards. I don't know if it is Dave Campo teaching that tackling technique or what, but those guys have got to wrap up. And I mean every single guy in the secondary...Hamlin, Newman, Scandrick, Jenkins, and Sensabaugh.
Play of the Game: Terence Newman jumped the slant route for an interception that he returned for a touchdown at a critical moment in the 4th quarter. It was nice to finally see a defensive back up on a receiver at the line and then actually jump a route. I hope it will be a sign of things to come. I know we are all sick of seeing the cornerbacks 8-10 yards off the ball at the snap and then watching the receiver catch the ball underneath.
Two winnable games are ahead on the schedule. Denver might be undefeated, but, on paper, the Cowboys are clearly the better team. Kansas City has nothing to make you worry. So the Cowboys need to take care of business so they can head into the bye week at 4-1. I'm not looking past the Broncos, but I know if the Cowboys play good football they will dominate Denver.