There were conservative moves and lucky plays. Going for a field goal and a one-point lead was conservative. Even owner Jerry Jones thought so.
Last week the Cowboys had a chance to win, but didn’t.
This week they seized an opportunity — with the help of a lot of luck. A few breaks — especially toward the end of the game — let them turn the tables and finally get back in the win column.
Receiver Miles Austin doesn't buy into the narrative, but agrees the game was hotly contested. "Luck? I don’t really believe in luck," he said, "but [the Panthers] played really well."
The first of three major breaks came on a fourth down play when Panthers quarterback Cam Newton completed a pass for what seemed at the time like a first down.
But the Cowboys — who were caught with too many men on the field — called a timeout and that erased the play. Dallas head coach Jason Garrett knows how close a call it was.
"It was big, and [defensive coordinator] Rob [Ryan] handled that situation really well," Garrett said. "What we wanted to do in that situation was get into our best defense with our personnel. They were in a certain personnel group, and — as you guys know — if they change personnel, that gives us time to change personnel."
Major break #2: On the very next play, rookie cornerback Morris Claiborne stopped Panthers receiver Louis Murphy from picking up a first down. Claiborne appeared to be all over Murphy, but luck was on the Cowboys' side, and no call was made.
"I believe... every good team you have one of those spurts where you have a little luck here and there," Claiborne said. "It's all part of the game."
And to round out the trifecta, a questionable horse collar penalty on Phillip Tanner put the Cowboys in position for another field goal. Dallas cornerback Brandon Carr is thankful for the good fortune.
"Luck is your side sometimes," he said. "You just keep battling and keep battling, and things will eventually turn for you. Today was a clear indication things are looking up for us. Guys are continuing to battle and continue to believe in themselves and finish out ball games."
You can call it a lucky day, but not everyone agreed, notably, defensive tackle Jay Ratliff.
"No, I think it was hard work. Perseverance. We fought for four quarters and played as a team," he said.
Defensive end Kenyon Coleman hitched a ride on the same boat. "I think we just played hard, man. I think we finished as a whole team," Coleman said.
With maybe just a little bit of luck.
Follow George Riba on Twitter at @georgeriba.