Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 10/21/12
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Tony Romo didn't mind that Sunday afternoon's game came minus many style points. The quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys liked the result. "This team grinded it out," Romo said after a 19-14 victory against the Carolina Panthers. "Obviously, we did the things when needed to win." The Cowboys produced barely enough offense despite stretches of efficiency from Romo. Dallas pulled ahead for good on Dan Bailey's 28-yard field goal with 3:25 left at Bank of America Stadium. Dallas still doesn't have its offense clicking the way it would prefer. But the Cowboys embraced the progress. "Good to be back to 3-3," receiver Miles Austin said. "It's a challenge. We knew it was going to be a fight coming into it and it definitely was." The defense did the rest once the Cowboys put up the go-ahead points. The Panthers picked up one first down before failing to convert on fourth-and-1 from their own 40-yard line with 2:08 to play. Bailey tacked on his fourth field with a 38-yarder at the 53-seconds mark. The Panthers never made it back into Dallas territory. Even though Carolina limited Dallas to 312 yards of total offense, the inability to put the clamps on in the fourth quarter was disturbing. "We have to find a way to finish these games," Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis said. "We're doing a good job of going out and competing. It's just all about finishing." The Cowboys (3-3) were successful in avoiding their first three-game losing streak since 2010. Dallas has won nine straight in the series, including five in Charlotte. The Panthers (1-5), coming off an open week on the schedule, couldn't get untracked often enough behind second-year quarterback Cam Newton. "This team needs a win," offensive tackle Jordan Gross said. "There are so many guys who are just learning how to play in the league and in their first couple of years and we've got to get more wins going to show those guys what it's all about." Carolina took the lead early in the fourth quarter. After managing only one first down in the third quarter, the Panthers marched 75 yards in nine plays. Mike Tolbert's 2-yard run after a pair of Dallas penalties -- unnecessary roughness and a third-down defensive holding -- sent Carolina back ahead at 14-13 following the extra-point kick. The Panthers never sniffed another score, with Newton under extreme pressure for much of the fourth quarter. "We just attacked," Dallas nose guard Jay Ratliff said. "We're not sitting ducks. ... It's so hard to win in this league, especially away games. We finished." Romo completed 24 of 34 passes for 227 yards, settling for throws underneath Carolina's coverage. "We are continuing to get better and better," Romo said. "But at the same time, we have to give ourselves better chances. I think at different times we did." There were a couple of big plays for the Dallas offense. Romo and Austin hooked up on consecutive pass plays of 36 and 26 yards, the latter a go-ahead touchdown midway through the third quarter. Austin has a team-high four touchdowns. Dallas pushed its lead to 13-7 on Bailey's 49-yard field goal with 2:13 remaining in the third quarter. Carolina forged a 7-3 halftime edge, converting on the second of two trips deep inside Dallas territory. The Panthers drove to the Dallas 6 in the second quarter, using Newton's 24-yard third-down scramble and the quarterback's 21-yard burst. The threat ended when Newton was hit as he released a pass and Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne made a diving interception in the end zone. The next time the Panthers had possession, they worked into the red zone and scored when receiver Brandon LaFell reached the ball across the goal line to complete a 5-yard pass play from Newton. The scoring play, which came with 14 seconds left in the first half and resulted in LaFell's second touchdown catch of the season, gave Carolina's offense its first touchdown in two games. The team's only touchdown in the previous game against Seattle came on an interception return. The Cowboys settled for a 19-yard field goal from Bailey on the second play of the second quarter to open the scoring, capping an 18-play, 91-yard drive. Dallas moved into Carolina territory on its next possession, but a fumble by Austin ended that opportunity. The ball was jarred loose by Carolina linebacker Thomas Davis, with linebacker Luke Kuechly recovering. Newton had 64 first-half rushing yards, which was 3 yards less than all other players in the game combined. Romo completed 12 of 15 first-half passes, but none went for more than 15 yards. When Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee left in the third quarter with a foot injury, former Carolina linebacker Dan Connor took his place. Notes: Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray, the team's leading rusher, missed the game with a sprained foot sustained a week earlier against Baltimore. ...Dallas lost C Phil Costa to an ankle injury in the second quarter. ... Gross tied the team record for career starts with 141. ... Panthers WR Steve Smith has at least one reception in 81 consecutive games. ... Panthers LB Jon Beason missed his second game in a row with a knee injury, with Kuechly filling in by switching from outside linebacker to middle linebacker. ... CB Chris Gamble, a starter, was also inactive for the Panthers.
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