It wasn't pretty. But it was a win. I said before the game that it was a must win game. A loss would have sent the Cowboys into the toughest three game stretch in their schedule at 2-4. Instead they are treading water at 3-3. But if the Cowboys can find a way to repeat their performance against the Giants they will find themselves right back in the thick of things in the NFC East.
The Cowboys really missed DeMarco Murray. Felix Jones and Phillip Tanner did their best to fill the void but there is a big difference between the tough running of Murray and the two backups. I was impressed with the way Jones and Tanner were running hard the whole game but they don't get the extra 2-3 yards at the end of the run that Murray always seems to get.
The defense was ok. Not good. Just ok. They managed to contain Cam Newton who was desperate to get his rhythm back from last season. Newton had a few nice runs and a couple of big pass plays, but the Cowboys didn't let him take over the game. The Morris Claiborne interception in the end zone was a huge play. It wasn't really a great play by Claiborne as much as it was a great play by the defensive line to get pressure in Newton's face to force a bad throw. But the turnover kept points off the board for the Panthers.
The pass rush was pretty decent for the most part. And the best part about the pass rush was the fact that Anthony Spencer stepped up with a big sack as the Panthers were in desperation mode at the end of the game. Demarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher split a sack. Two sacks doesn't sound like much but the Cowboys kept Newton from getting really comfortable in the pocket all game long.
The offensive line was decent. Unfortunately Phil Costa went down with what appeared to be a serious injury. Now the word is that it is just an ankle sprain so we can at least hope he'll be back this season. The penalties were greatly reduced on the line so that was obviously a huge improvement. But there wasn't a big push from the line in the running game. Tony Romo was protected pretty well throughout the game and didn't get sacked at all.
Romo played an ok game. He was lucky to avoid an interception on one play but was very good protecting the ball besides that one. He missed Miles Austin on an easy touchdown early in the game but threw a beautiful pass to Austin in the second half to make up for it. Romo seemed much more settled in this game than he has looked in the last few games.
The wide receivers all had their problems. Miles Austin failed to protect the ball as the Cowboys were driving for a potential 10-0 lead. Kevin Ogletree is just terrible. He missed at least one route adjustment and had another drop. Dez Bryant dropped a touchdown pass that would have given the Cowboys a much more comfortable lead and instead they had to settle for a field goal. Dez also made a boneheaded play and got called for a personal foul on a punt return.
I have some big questions about whether Jason Garrett trusts his offense
in critical moments since he once again settled for a long field goal
when the Cowboys had a chance to go for the jugular. On one hand I understand wanting to be sure you have an easy field goal for the lead. On the other hand a field goal only gave the Cowboys a 2 point lead and put the game in doubt. You can say he trusts his defense but I really think it is a lack of faith that the offense won't commit a penalty or turnover in critical moments.
Sean Lee went out with a toe injury but says he expects to be back next week. I sure hope so because the Cowboys will need him against the Giants. The Giants seem to have found their groove so the Cowboys will need all hands on deck. I haven't heard an update on Murray for next week but hopefully he can get back on the field as well.
The Cowboys played just ok basically across the board in this game. That won't be enough next week. But I'll never complain about a win.