ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) – Leading, but not by much, Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys were desperately in need of a big play.
Jake Delhomme helped them make several.
Terence Newman returned an interception 27 yards for a lead-stretching touchdown with 5:07 left, then rookie linebacker Victor Butler got two sacks and forced a fumble on the next series, sending Dallas to a 21-7 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Monday night.
Considering the Cowboys were coming off a last-second loss in the opener of their $1.15 billion stadium, a crowd of 90,588 was especially tense until the defense put the game away. The biggest sigh of relief likely came from team owner Jerry Jones.
“It certainly does feel good,” Jones said. “The way it went so early, it just felt like maybe we ought to check this thing out for Grim Reapers living in the back someplace.”
Dallas (2-1) trailed 7-0 at halftime and was booed by fans. Although the defense was playing well and running backs Felix Jones and Tashard Choice were easing the load on Romo, the quarterback was being so careful to avoid the mistakes that doomed the Cowboys the previous week that the offense struggled to turn long drives into points.
When Romo threw a pair of incompletions from the 1-yard line midway through the fourth quarter, Dallas was up by only six points. Then Newman stepped in front of a pass to Steve Smith, darted toward the right corner of the end zone and dived in. Butler capped the night with his pair of sacks and the turnover, giving the Cowboys three of each after not having any of either over the first two weeks.
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*****Big crowds to watch the game on hand at the Legends Sports Bar inside the Clarion Hotel on Swing Road and at the Lawndale Drive-In on Lawndale Drive near Kerr Drug.*****