Cowboys vs. Panthers: Cowboys' Biggest Winners and Losers from NFL Week 7
The Cowboys came into Charlotte needing a victory. They dominated the Ravens last week in Baltimore but still lost the game. Two weeks before that, Dallas took a tough loss against the Bears on Monday night and the week before that "L," the Cowboys beat the Bucs by six.
In essence, it's been a very up-and-down season for the Cowboys. With their win against the Panthers today, they may have added some consistency to their season.
The Cowboys beat Carolina 19-14 in a game that featured just six Cowboys penalties and only 85 rushing yards. Oh, and Dallas only turned the ball over one time.
When the mental errors are low and Dallas keeps its turnover count minimal, that is usually a recipe for success.
Here are the biggest winners and losers from Sunday's victory in Charlotte.
WINNER: Miles Austin, WR
Austin had one big error against the Panthers, but he made up for it. He fumbled the ball toward the end of the second quarter that led to a score from the Panthers.
No matter for Mr. Austin as he was able to score from 26 yards out in the third quarter to give the Cowboys the lead.
On the day, Austin had five catches for 97 yards and that one touchdown. He was the Cowboys' offensive MVP.
LOSER: Dez Bryant, WR
Bryant had just two catches for 14 yards on the day. He got his bell rung and had to sit out a few plays after banging his head during a punt return.
Bryant's decision-making, again, has come into play. He returned a punt near the Cowboys' five-yard line where the ball was clearly going to sail over his head. He caught it, broke a couple of tackles and was brought down where he injured his head.
Bryant also dropped a touchdown pass and got up to complain to the referee that he was interfered with.
I understand his reasoning for complaining, trying to divert attention away from the fact that he dropped a touchdown pass. It can also work if he lobbies the refs enough to get a call to go his way.
But in Bryant's case, he hasn't earned enough "juice" on the field to get those types of calls.
Bryant still has some growing up to do and needs to focus on catching the ball instead of catching calls.
WINNER: Anthony Spencer, LB
Spencer's sack of Cam Newton with just 18 seconds left in the fourth quarter sealed the victory for the Cowboys.
He also had six tackles and aided in the Cowboys holding the Panthers running backs to just 48 yards rushing.
Any time a player is responsible for helping his team win, he deserves the label of winner.
LOSER: Cowboys' Rushing Attack
The Panthers came into Sunday's game ranked 23rd against the run. Dallas racked up 227 yards on the ground versus Baltimore last week, so many thought that Dallas would have the same type of success against Carolina.
Well, I was wrong, along with everyone else who thought the Cowboys would run all over Carolina.
Dallas had just 85 yards rushing on 31 attempts. They gained 3.1 yards per carry as Felix Jones and Phillip Tanner never got into a rhythm.
Jones' longest rush of the day went for nine yards, and Tanner's was for only five. Dallas won the game but seemed to lose the battle up front.
WINNER: Tony Romo, QB
Last week I said that Romo's interception in the second quarter against the Ravens was a turning point in their loss to Baltimore.
His play today is what aided the Cowboys in their victory. He was steady, completing 24 passes for 227 yards. He started the game nine for nine and spread the ball around to five different receivers in the first quarter alone.
Romo's third-quarter touchdown pass to Miles Austin, which was the only touchdown of the game for Dallas, proved to be a pivotal score for the Cowboys.
Carolina answered by scoring an early fourth-quarter touchdown to take a one-point lead, but without Austin's third-quarter score, Bailey's two fourth-quarter field goals would have proved worthless.
LOSER: Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams, RBs
Stewart and Williams combined for just 38 yards on the ground. As a collective, they ran the ball 12 times and averaged a paltry 3.2 yards per carry.
Stewart is being paid $7.3 million this season, and Williams isn't far behind him, making $8.7 million this season.
That is almost $20 million for two running backs not making any noise on the ground this season.
Williams ran the ball just twice on Sunday, and Stewart barely got to double digit touches with 10 rushes.
The Cowboys are middle of the pack when it comes to stopping the run as they allow 103 yards on the ground. Their stats should improve after Sunday's win against Carolina and shutting down two of the highest-paid running backs in the league.
WINNER: Jason Witten, TE
I believe it is safe to say that Witten has shaken off the injury rust. After developing a cast of the drops through the first few weeks of the season, Witten caught six balls for 44 yards on Sunday.
He is officially back as Romo's fail safe and the team's top receiving target.