ARLINGTON, Texas - Terence Newman dived into the end zone, threw the ball into the air and exhaled. The Dallas Cowboys were headed to victory, and their maligned defense was the main reason.
Newman returned an interception 27 yards for a touchdown with 5:07 remaining, cracking open a tight game and sending the Cowboys to a 21-7 win over the Carolina Panthers on Monday night.
Dallas (2-1) came into this game without a takeaway or a sack, the latter number an especially sorry stat for last year’s NFL leader. But the Cowboys harassed Jake Delhomme into three sacks, two interceptions and a fumble — and, most importantly, forced him and the Panthers (0-3) into four straight three-and-outs to start the second half. Two sacks and the fumble came on Carolina’s final drive.
Tony Romo moved the ball well all night, but struggled to turn deep drives into points.
Dallas was leading only 13-7 when Newman picked off a ball intended for Steve Smith and zipped toward the right corner of the end zone, hurtling in as he was caught from behind.
Teammates mobbed him in celebration while a loud crowd of 90,588 savored the likelihood of the Cowboys’ first victory in their new $1.15 billion home.
Romo bounced back from an ugly three-interception outing by playing very carefully. He was 22 of 33 for 255 yards with no touchdowns — but also no turnovers. He didn’t throw deep too often and rarely into traffic. He had a chance to give Dallas a 10-point lead midway through the fourth quarter, but missed on short lobs into the end zone to Roy Williams and Martellus Bennett, which gave Carolina hope.
“You’re always frustrated and disappointed when you don’t play to what you feel like you’re capable of. That was me last week,” Romo said. “There’s a lot of adversity you have to go through at different times, and if you keep plugging away, playing hard and just trying to get better, it’ll come out the right way. … This week was all about trying to execute better so we could come out and get a win.”