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Romo off and running, rallies Cowboys past Panthers

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Tony Romo found a way to put a smile back
on Dallas coach Bill Parcells' face.

Romo rallied the Cowboys from a 14-point first-quarter deficit,
throwing for 270 yards and a touchdown, and Julius Jones ran for 94
yards and a score to help the Cowboys beat the Carolina Panthers
35-14 Sunday night. The Cowboys set a team record with 25
fourth-quarter points.

"He's a guy who's been miserable all week," said receiver
Terrell Owens, Romo's top target with nine catches for 107 yards.
"I asked him coming off the field on Friday, I asked him how it
was going and he said he doesn't like to get his butt kicked. As a
team, we're tired of losing, we know we have a decent team. We just
have to go out and play like it."

Romo, starting in place of the benched Drew Bledsoe, showed
poise in slowly leading the Cowboys (4-3) back, using a variety of
short passes to different receivers.

Early in the fourth quarter, facing a third-and-12 from the
Carolina 21, Romo sidestepped pressure and fired a 16-yard pass to
Jason Witten. But the drive stalled when Romo misfired to Witten in
the end zone on third down, and Mike Vanderjagt kicked a 24-yard
field goal to cut the Panthers' lead to 14-13.

On the ensuing kickoff, Sam Hurd ripped the ball from Brad
Hoover and recovered the fumble at the Carolina 14. On the next
play, Jones ran untouched up the middle for the touchdown. The
Cowboys added the 2-point conversion when Romo faked a draw and
threw a pass to Owens to make it 21-14.

"It's been tough, you never know, the change that we made at
quarterback," Romo said. "You never know what you're going to get
... with a new starter who is untested. I was anxious just like
Bill was to see what we were going to do out their tonight."

Owens was impressed by Romo's poise.

"Tony gives us a different change of pace," Owens said. "He
gets the ball out quick and he gave us some chances. Everybody came
up with some big plays today. Jason Witten played tremendous over
the middle."

Dallas sealed the win when Roy Williams intercepted Jake
Delhomme's throw on Carolina's possession after Jones' touchdown.
Delhomme lost another fumble with under 2 minutes to go, Carolina's
third turnover in the fourth quarter.

"This is about as poor of a performance in the fourth quarter
that I have been associated with," coach John Fox said. "I
apologize for all the people who paid for tickets."

Marion Barber had touchdown runs of 3 and 14 yards late as
Parcells won a game after trailing by 14 points in the first
quarter for only the second time in his career. The victory
justified his decision to sit Bledsoe and end his streak of 70
consecutive starts. Bledsoe paced the sideline for most of the
game, wearing a visor and occasionally glancing down at the play
chart on his wrist, while applauding Romo's performance.

"Drew actually came up to me before the game [and] said he was
rooting for me," Romo said. "Drew's a really, really class act.
He's a very pleasant guy, and I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't
for Drew."

Romo completed 24 of 36 passes and had one interception, which
led to Steve Smith's 24-yard touchdown run that made it 14-0 in the
second quarter.

But the Panthers (4-4) were plagued by mistakes as they lost
their second straight, blowing double-digit leads in both. Instead
of Romo struggling in his first NFL start, it was Delhomme, making
his 62nd straight start, who had problems. He was 17-of-31 for 149
yards and an interception.

Smith, Michael Gaines, DeShaun Foster and Keyshawn Johnson all
dropped passes. Johnson's might have been a touchdown in the third
quarter, spoiling his first game against Dallas since he was
released in a salary cap move so the Cowboys could sign Owens.

"It's a team game. We all didn't get it done. We need to get
better," Delhomme said.

Smith was angered when asked about his two drops, and his fumble
of a punt return as the Panthers' once promising season has taken a
turn for the worse.

"Just keep keeping your stats," Smith said. The Panthers were even plagued by a coaching miscue. Fox called
a timeout late in the first half that wiped out Richard Marshall's
blocked field goal. Given a second chance, Vanderjagt kicked a
38-yarder to make it 14-10 at halftime.

"Hopefully with the bye coming that will give us a chance to
get healthy and maybe find some guys who can finish games," Fox
said.

Foster rushed for 50 yards and a touchdown for Carolina, which
lost starting cornerback Ken Lucas to a groin injury in the first
quarter, forcing rookie Richard Marshall to alternate coverage on
Owens and Terry Glenn.

In a season filled with controversy, Parcells left the field
with a grin.

"We haven't been having a lot of fun around here. They're
having fun right now," Parcells said. "That's the thing that I
enjoy the most. When I see the faces of those players."

Game notes
Cowboys rookie Patrick Watkins, who had started the first
six games at free safety, was inactive. Watkins, who had been
beaten for big plays of late, was replaced by Keith Davis in the
starting lineup. ... Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams
(ankle) missed his third straight game. ... Panthers kicker John
Kasay was well short on a 65-yard field goal attempt on the final
play of the first half.

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