Grades vs. the Panthers
Run offense: D— With DeMarco Murray out, Felix Jones got the start and couldn’t make it through the day suffering a neck stinger and a bruised knee. He got eight yards on seven carries in the second half and sat while Phillip Tanner got the carries late in the fourth. The Cowboys rushed for 85 yards on the ground and averaged just 2.7 yards per carry. The offensive line got little push up front.
Pass offense: C-- Quarterback Tony Romo gets credit for being efficient and seemingly error free, completing 23 of 34 passes for 227 yards and a TD. He snapped a six-game interception streak, largely because linebacker James Anderson dropped what might have been a pick six. Kevin Ogletree and Dez Bryant had critical dropped passes. Miles Austin had five catches for 97 yards but also had a critical fumble after a catch to set up a Panthers.
Run defense: B-- The Panthers gained 112 yards but most of that comes with an asterisk because quarterback Cam Newton got the bulk of the yards on scrambles. The Cowboys did a get a handle on Newton and his zone read runs in the second half. As far the running backs go, Jonathan Stewart rushed for 35 yards with 20 of that coming on one carry.
Pass defense: B-- When Cam Newton wasn’t missing open receivers, he made a few plays threw the air, completing 21 of 37 passes for 233 and a touchdown. The Cowboys did sack him twice and cornerback Morris Claiborne recorded the first interception by the defense since the season opener. Claiborne also had a key fourth down pass deflection to save the game in the final minute.
Special teams: B-- Dan Bailey was back to being Mr. Perfect, kicking four field goal to make up for last week's game potential-game winning miss from 51 yards out against the Ravens. Punter Brian Moorman averaged 49.3 yards per kick and downed two inside the 20. The coverage teams were excellent. Running back Lance Dunbar impressed with his coverage skills. The Cowboys had at least three penalties in special teams. And Dez Bryant was too reckless on punt returns, still trying to do too much.
Coaching: B—A win is a win is a win is win. And that is all the matters to the Cowboys who snapped a two game losing streak. It wasn't pretty but the Cowboys got the win and saved their season. Coach Jason Garrett was conservative in his offensive play calling but he was just trying to manage a mistake-prone team to a win. He put the game in the hand of Rob Ryan’s defense late and it came through with flying colors.