5 Keys to Pounding the Panthers

The Dallas Cowboys will have a golden opportunity to climb back to the .500 mark when they take the field Sunday afternoon against the Carolina Panthers. Here are our 5 keys to a big Cowboys win, and step back towards respectability.

The Right Mindset
Let's face it, Dallas is coming off a heartbreaking loss to the New York Giants last weekend. A call here, a call there, and the Cowboys are off to an impressive 3-2 start through the first 5 games of the season. Instead of a win, the Cowboys found a way to lose as Kerry Collins drove his team the length of the field midway through the 4th quarter to give the Giants a 4-point cushion that would not be relinquished.

It will be very important for the team to respond once again after a loss, even with potential injuries to Darren Woodson, Andre Gurode, and Kelvin Garmon. Simply put, the Cowboys have the talent to beat the Panthers, and beat them good, all they need to do is get on the field and do it. Sounds simple enough, doesn't it?

Maybe, maybe not. With rumors swirling around about job security with head coach Dave Campo, Emmitt claiming that he thought he would be closer to the record, and a struggling offense through the first 5 games of the season, it's easy for a team to get side tracked in all the distractions.

21 and Up
How about some more offense this week? The Cowboys appeared to break out of their shell in two of their scoring drives last week, and if Quincy Carter would have connected with Antonio Bryant instead of overthrowing him in the endzone, we might all be singing a different tune.

Interestingly enough, the Cowboys like the way Carter handled himself following the disappointing loss to New York. Carter publicly accepted blame for not connecting with Bryant on what would have been a pass that would given Dallas the lead late in the game. "That shows he's maturing and becoming a leader," Campo said of Carter's comments.

Needless to say, there is still plenty of work to be done with an offense that has failed to score over 21 points this season. Facing Julius Peppers and company could be a tall order, but the Cowboys have progressed enough on a week-to-week basis to do it.

Secondary Help
Darren Woodson is listed as doubtful for this one, which would mean trouble for the Cowboys if Carolina had a decent quarterback. Fortunately they don't. Chris Wienke started practicing with the first team again this week and aging veteran Rodney Peete won't scare anyone as Panthers signal caller.

If Woodson is out, the Cowboys could have a dilemma on their hands at safety, especially if Lynn Scott is out with a sprained big toe. That leaves just Roy Williams and Tony Dixon at safety, even though rookie CB Pete Hunter has been working more at safety in the nickel.

The key for the Cowboys defensively is to stop Lamar Smith and force Carolina into the passing game. Do that and the game belongs to the silver and blue.

Special Teams Still Should be Special
Billy Cundiff, this could be your week again! Take away the Panthers 31 points against the Detroit Lions three weeks ago and you'll uncover the fact that their offense is just about as bad as the Cowboys.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that two bad offenses plus two good defenses equals a close, low scoring game. Never underestimate the power of special teams in a game featuring two teams like the Cowboys and the Panthers.

Make no mistake about it, Cundiff's foot will prove to be one of the most valuable assets to this offense before the year is out, and Sunday could be one of those games where he has the opportunity to put 4 or 5 field goals on the board. Here's a little piece of advice for our favorite rookie kicker- Don't Miss!

Pressure Peete, Weinke, Whoever
Quarterback Chris Weinke, who was benched at the start of the season, was back with the first team in Wednesday's practice in Charlotte. Head Coach John Fox said that is was only temporary, and that he was giving starter Rodney Peete a little rest because of a sore hip. Even though Peete was on the practice field, he didn't take part in any team drills.

Fox went on to say that Peete will start Sunday at Dallas, but over the course of the last 3 weeks, he's been anything but effective. There has been some speculation that if he doesn't improve his play that Fox will think about going back to Weinke as the team's starting quarterback.

Weinke has had his ups and downs as a pro, but there is no reason to think that La'Roi Glover and company won't have their way with him or Rodney Peete. The key will be constant pressure in the backfield Sunday afternoon. A healthy dose of Glover and Ellis will be critical in a Cowboys' win Sunday.

Other Notes
This is the fifth meeting between these two teams and the all-time series stand tied at 2-2. Interestingly enough, all four meetings have been decided by 10 points or less. Carolina is one of only nine teams Dallas does not hold a series advantage over and the club's have split their two contests at Texas Stadium.

The Cowboys are listed as two point favorites entering Sunday's 12:00 kickoff at Texas Stadium.

Only Buffalo, Cleveland, Tennessee and Oakland have been penalized more this season than the Cowboys, whose five flags Sunday against the New York Giants were their second-lowest total in a game this season.

In terms of injuries, C Andre Gurode is doubtful with a sprained toe. LG Kelvin Garmon is questionable with a hip contusion. Look for Marques McFadden to get time at the position whether a hobbled Garmon plays or not. Also, SS Darren Woodson is questionable with a foot and ankle sprain. Tony Dixon will start if Woodson can't go Sunday.

CowboysHQ Top Stories