- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 29, 2009

ARLINGTON, Texas | Terence Newman dove 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 for it.

Newman returned an interception 27 yards for a touchdown with 5:07 left, cracking open a tight game and sending the Cowboys to a 21-7 victory 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 leaders. 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, a week after a last-second loss to the New York Giants.

Tashard Choice scored on a 5-yard run with five minutes left in the third quarter to give the Cowboys their first lead of the game.

The Cowboys had to settle for Nick Folk’s 24-yard field goal on the previous drive, when a 40-yard run by Jones made it first-and-goal before a TD catch by Choice was overturned. Replay showed that Choice’s knee bounced on the turf before he was able to reach the ball into the end zone.

Dallas was set to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1, but rookie tight end John Phillips was called for a false start. That drew an earful from Romo and brought the field goal unit on the field.

Carolina, trying to avoid an 0-3 start, went three-and-out in each of its three offensive possessions in the third quarter.

Muhsin Muhammad sprinted to the end zone on what would have been a 79-yard score, but he was penalized for offensive pass interference when he shoved cornerback Mike Jenkins before making the catch downfield.

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