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Dallas tied for NFC's best record

11/24/2003

IRVING, Texas (AP) -- They've beaten everyone in their division
and on Sunday took down the top team in the NFC.

Question on the Panthers: Can Delhomme carry this team if Davis is ineffective?
That's been the question all along and today it may have been answered. The Panthers don't look like they can depend on Delhomme to make big plays if Davis doesn't come through. They need their QB to be able to back opposing defenses up and stop them from blitzing with a solid passing attack ... and Delhomme can't do that against a good defense.

Question on the Cowboys: How important of a win was this for their confidence?
This was a huge win for them after being shut out twice this season in "big" games against the Bucs and Patriots. For them to reach the eight-victory mark merely a year after finishing the season with only five wins is a great accomplishment for Bill Parcells and his staff. The Cowboys receivers played well and this team played consistent throughout the game.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

Now, even Bill Parcells, their harshest critic, seems ready to
proclaim the Dallas Cowboys a team to watch in December -- and maybe
even January -- after the way they beat Carolina 24-20 Sunday.

"We have a lot of football left, but we're going to be in the
hunt for a while," said Parcells, showing more emotion than he has
all season. "I think we've got a real shot to do something here."

Quincy Carter threw two touchdown passes to revive a sputtering
offense, then made his best plays by keeping alive the final drive
and running out the clock in an otherwise sloppy, penalty-filled
battle for the best record in the NFC.

Dallas (8-3) remains tied with Philadelphia for the NFC East
lead and moves into a four-way tie with the Eagles, Panthers and
St. Louis Rams for the best record in the conference. The Eagles
play at Carolina next Sunday; Dallas is at Philadelphia the
following Sunday.

Next up for the Cowboys are the Dolphins on Thursday. Parcells
has been saying all season that he'd reserve judgment on this team
until after that game, but his excitement over this win indicates
his expectations are rising.

"I just thought our guys were really good today," he said.
"They hung in there, fought it out and made some clutch plays. ...
This was by far the best win I've had in Dallas."

The Panthers are the kings of the comeback, having won six times
in the final two minutes or overtime. They couldn't make it seven.

Carolina had second-and-goal from the 6 with four minutes left
when Todd Steussie was called for a false start. It was the team's
fourth such penalty, the third by Steussie. Pushed back to the 11,
the drive stalled there -- then went to the 16 on a delay of game
before fourth down.

Panthers coach John Fox already had decided to kick a field goal
and hope to get the ball back rather than try for a tying
touchdown.

John Kasay did his part by making a 34-yarder. With 3:47 left,
it was up to Carolina's defense.

On third-and-9 from the 21, Carter ran up the middle for only
four yards -- but two Panthers were flagged. Dallas declined a
15-yard illegal contact penalty on Deon Grant and took a 15-yard
facemasking on Brentson Buckner.

"If we didn't get two penalties on third down, it would've been
good thinking," Fox said of his strategy. "When you do that, you
deserve to lose."

Dallas got another first down with a 13-yard pass to Jason
Witten on third-and-8 with 1:39 left, letting them run out the
clock on the Panthers' second straight road loss. Carolina won its
three previous road games with overtime field goals.

"We can't always rely on us coming back at the end," Buckner
said.

In winning their fifth straight at home, the Cowboys got three
touchdowns from an offense that had scored just four the last four
games, with two shutouts along the way.

"The sky's the limit for our team," linebacker Dexter Coakley
said. "If we can get that through our head, we'll be right where
we want to be at the end."

The two most run-oriented teams in the NFL were forced by solid
defenses to take it to the air.

Carter ended up with the most attempts (44) and completions (29)
of his career, for 254 yards. He threw an early 24-yard TD pass to
Joey Galloway and a 5-yarder to Jeff Robinson -- whose primary job
is deep snapping -- in the third quarter.

Carolina had been answering each Dallas score with one of its
own, tying the game at 3, 10 and 17. The Cowboys went ahead for
good on a third-and-1 handoff to fullback Richie Anderson that
turned into an option pitch to Aveion Cason for a 16-yard score.

"Parcells knows when to call plays like that," Carter said.

Carolina's Jake Delhomme was 9-for-24 for 175 yards. His first
two touchdown drives were also aided by long pass interference
penalties against Dallas; a third came on the Panthers' final
scoring drive.

Stephen Davis became Carolina's single-season rushing leader
(1,143) and tied the TD mark (seven), but otherwise had a
forgettable game. After gaining 32 yards on eight carries, he had
just 27 on 18 tries.

Game notes
Carolina had 75 rushing yards. Dallas had 65. ... Cowboys
CB Terence Newman had an interception deep in Dallas territory
overturned by replay. Teammate Roy Williams returned an
interception to the Carolina 11 on the next play. ... Kasay missed
a 52-yarder. ... Dallas' Billy Cundiff missed from 49 and 44, his
first two-miss game this season.