Dallas Cowboys vs. Carolina Panthers: 'Boys Still Need to Compete

Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistOctober 21, 2012

Oct 21, 2012; Charlotte, NC, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) reacts in the first half at Bank of America Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-US PRESSWIRE

Dez Bryant dropped another pass in the end zone, Phil Costa and Sean Lee suffered injuries and the offense mustered fewer than 20 points for the fourth time in the last five games, but the Dallas Cowboys won. 

Broadly, that's all that matters. But strictly speaking, this was another uninspiring performance from a team that continues to produce more bust than boom.

Against an average or better-than-average NFL team, the Cowboys probably would have lost Sunday's game, but the Carolina Panthers were on the schedule. Cam Newton continued his struggles with an offense that converted just two third downs all day.

Dallas was still actually out-gained by the Panthers, averaging just 4.8 yards per play to Carolina's 5.5. Tony Romo didn't make any crucial mistakes this time, but he also failed to capitalize on a exploitable defense. It didn't help that Bryant (who was less than 100 percent due to injury) was a non-factor and that Felix Jones failed to deliver in DeMarco Murray's stead. 

So a win's a win, but such a flat effort has me wondering if or when the Cowboys will actually begin meeting their potential. That'll be tough if Costa's forced to miss time due to a leg injury. And it'll be nearly impossible if Lee is sidelined due to a toe injury.

They've got a win over the Giants in their back pocket, which is nice. But does Dallas really look like a team that can contend with New York this season? They host the Giants next week, and a loss there would kill that tiebreaker and put them in a two-and-a-half-game hole as midseason arrives. 

Of course it would be worse had they not pulled it out Sunday in Charlotte, but Murphy's Law has had a grip on this team since Week 2. That gives me the sense that by winning games like these, the Cowboys are merely delaying the inevitable. 

Another season that ends in Week 17.