The Dallas Cowboys faithful and owner Jerry Jones can breathe a much needed sigh of relief after Dallas defeated the Carolina Panthers 21-7 on Monday Night Football. The new Cowboys Stadium had a crowd of over 90,000 screaming fans that arrived early and eagerly awaited something to cheer about regarding the 2009 edition of America's team.
The Cowboys live on the national stage, but the 2009 Dallas Cowboys (2-1) were in need of a win more so than their winless Carolina (0-3) opponent after posting a woeful last-second debacle against the New York Giants last weekend to open the new billion-dollar eighth wonder of the world stadium in Arlington.
A sea fans festering for the team's first victory funneled into the dome-shaped colossal stadium and were greeted to shaky start on both sides of the ball to begin the game in the first half. After giving up a late touchdown to the Panthers the Cowboys left the field for halftime to a chorus of boo's from the disappointed home crowd.
However, something clicked in the locker room at halftime that maybe signaled a turning point for this team and hopefully for the true blue fans, a return to something that must be a Dallas-staple every season, defense.
"Everybody on the outside was pressing the panic button, but not us," linebacker Bradie James told the Associated Press. "We knew we had a bunch of ball left to play. There was still a lot of time to improve."
Cowboys head coach and defensive coordinator Wade Philips had to be feeling a lot of pressure heading into the Monday night affair because his defensive team hadn't recorded a sack or takeaway in the first two contests of the young season while the offense had four turnovers over the same span of games.
In his post-game press conference Phillips was quick to correctly point to his team's second half defense as being the difference in the game. Then without breaking a sweat he simultaneously showered praise on his quarterback. The fragile psyche of his quarterback Tony Romo, who had been shelled in the demoralizing defeat against the Giants recording three interceptions, was in need of much repair.
However, Tony "The Bus Driver" Romo (22-33, 237 yds) bounced back and continued to build on his ever growing undrafted player legend. Romo boasts the best winning percentage of an undrafted quarterback winning over 60 percent of the games he has started in just his first three seasons plus.
When he and the team needed it most, Romo turned in the kind of game performance that not only wins a high percentage of regular season tilts but, dare I say it, championships.
Yes, Romo did have a few moments in the game where his youthful and reckless play returned but he didn't over do it with his sandlot antics and remained turnover free. He also showed the poise of a developing field general barking out "No excuses, it's unacceptable" to players when mistakes were made.
In his on field interview with ESPN's Michele Tafoya immediately after the game Romo simply said, "We had to stop beating ourselves." The Cowboys' had horrendous turnover differential (-4) before they recorded a fumble and two interceptions against Carolina.
Clearly the play of the game was turned in by veteran cornerback Terrance Newman.
With only 5:07 remaining in the game and the Cowboys desperately holding on to a slim six-point lead (13-7), Newman alertly streaked in front Carolina's oil slick pro-bowl receiver Steve Smith, snagging the ball from the air then galloping into the end zone for a touchdown that would seal the 14-point victory for Dallas after backup running back Tashard Choice strolled into the end zone for the two-point conversion.
“Doomsday” they were not, but the Dallas defense could not and would not be stopped.
While the world was watching rookie linebacker Victor Butler from Oregon State took center stage. He smelled Carolina blood in the water and earned his star with two bone-crushing and drive-killing sacks of Carolina quarterback Jack Delhomme before stripping away the ball on his second sack of the night forcing a fumble that was the final blow to the Panthers securing an emotional first win in the new stadium for the Cowboys.
However, the joy and elation surrounding the Monday night win will be muted over the coming days as the Cowboys turn their sights to the undefeated Denver Broncos (3-0). The Cowboys will travel 5,280 feet above sea level to face the Broncos at Invesco Field at Mile High on Sunday afternoon, 10/4, 4:15 ET.
Denver is a familiar place for the now third-year Cowboys head coach Wade Philips. He spent a total of six years with Broncos from the late-80s to mid-90s, four years as defensive coordinator and two as head coach, hopefully his tenure with that franchise will benefit the Cowboys in game preparation and conditioning this week.
Playing on short rest because of the Monday night game, the Cowboys will limp into Sunday's late afternoon contest with the Broncos with two key injuries to the vaunted rushing attack.
A left-quad bruise suffered in the loss against the Giants kept Cowboys starting running back Marion Barber out of the game with Carolina as a precaution. With Barber still nursing his quad the Cowboys received sobering news Tuesday regarding the health of back up running back Felix Jones. He suffered a sprained left knee ligament rushing eight times for 94 yards in light duty before leaving the game. The second year back from Arkansas has electrifying speed and quickness that will definitely be missed by the offense and Tony Romo if he is unable to go on Sunday.