Rapid Reaction: Cowboys 21, Panthers 7

September, 28, 2009
9/28/09
11:45
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley


ARLINGTON, Texas -- After a dreadful first half, the Cowboys finally did enough to separate themselves from one of the worst teams the NFC South has to offer. Both teams slopped around in the first half but the Panthers caught fire on consecutive passes to tight end Dante Rosario, the second one going for a 25-yard touchdown.

The Cowboys found a sense of urgency in the third quarter, taking a 10-7 lead on Tashard Choice's 5-yard touchdown run. A week removed from one of the worst performances of his career, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo did a relatively nice job of managing the team. He wasn't called on to make a lot of plays, though his school-yard toss to Choice on third-and-8 late in the third quarter kept a scoring drive alive.

The Cowboys desperately needed a win Monday, but they certainly won't get any style points for this one. They let a bad team hang around until the last five minutes and it took way too long for the offense to find any rhythm. The most positive sign for the Cowboys is that the defense finally caused a couple of turnovers.

Second-year cornerback Mike Jenkins picked off an awful pass by Jake Delhomme in the first half and Terence Newman put the game away with a 27-yard interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. The Cowboys came into the game as the only team in the league without a sack or caused turnover. Nose tackle Jay Ratliff finally got the Cowboys' first sack in the second half and the Cowboys did a nice job of putting pressure on Delhomme.

Panthers coach John Fox helped the Cowboys out by abandoning the running game when his team was only down 10-7. It was a curious move against a defense that allowed 174 rushing yards by the Bucs two weeks ago. It's still early in the season, but it's hard to imagine the Panthers having a turnaround. They were missing two starters on defense and the Cowboys' offensive line finally started to wear them down in the fourth quarter.

The Cowboys will take the win, but they obviously have a lot of things to work on. What was Jason Garrett thinking when the Cowboys had second-and-goal from the 1-yard line in the fourth quarter? He had Tony Romo throw consecutive passes into the corner of the end zone. And it's not like the Panthers had slowed down Choice and Felix Jones.

Jones left the game with a knee strain in the third quarter. He returned briefly, but then limped off the field. It's certainly something you worry about with a player who missed a lot of the 2008 season with toe and hamstring injuries.

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