Dallas can't stop Carolina's attack

Published: Sunday, January 4, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 4, 2004 at 12:25 a.m.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Jake Delhomme could throw, Stephen Davis could run and nothing Bill Parcells and the Dallas Cowboys tried could stop them.

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Carolina's Rod Smith hurdles Dallas' Michael Bates in the Panthers' 29-10 win.

The Associated Press

Delhomme threw for 273 yards and a touchdown, Davis ran for 104 yards and a score and the Carolina Panthers ended the Parcells-led turnaround in Dallas with a 29-10 victory over the Cowboys in the first round of the NFL playoffs Saturday night.

Although the Cowboys came into the game with the league's top-ranked defense, the Panthers made them look downright ordinary while handing Parcells one of the worst playoff losses of his career.

Parcells, who came out of retirement and returned Dallas to the playoffs for the first time in five seasons, lost to Green Bay 35-21 in the 1997 Super Bowl while coaching New England.

The game was a complete reversal of the regular-season meeting, when the Cowboys stifled Davis and held him to 59 yards rushing. That forced the game into Delhomme's hands, and he failed to deliver in Dallas' 24-20 victory.

Not this time, when the two combined to make Dallas' defense look shoddy while handing the Cowboys one of their worst playoff losses.

Steve Smith had five catches for 135 yards and a 32-yard touchdown and Muhsin Muhammad had four catches for 103 yards. Coupled with Davis' yards on the ground, it marked the first time all season three individual players passed the 100-yard mark against Dallas.

John Kasay, the last original Panther and the only one who played a role in Carolina's lone previous playoff victory - a 26-17 win over Dallas in 1997 - tied an NFL postseason record with five field goals.

Meanwhile, Carolina's defense dominated the rematch.

With Parcells watching in frustration from the sideline, the Cowboys could do little. Dallas had zero yards offense in the third quarter, when Delhomme threw his 32-yard touchdown pass to Smith for a 23-3 lead.

Against a Dallas team that was 0-5 this season when trailing by seven or more points, Parcells knew his team was in trouble.

Dallas safety Darren Woodson showed the Cowboys' frustration later in the third period, shaking his head in disgust after Davis' 11-yard run. It set up Kasay's fourth field goal, a 32-yarder, that put Carolina up 26-3 with 12:45 left.

The Cowboys didn't give up, though. Quincy Carter put together a solid fourth-quarter drive and capped it with a 9-yard touchdown run with 7:36 to play.

But any chance of another scoring march ended when he was intercepted by Julius Peppers, who returned it 34 yards to the Dallas 11. Peppers then hopped back and sprinted through the end zone, leaping into the stands and into the arms of the white-towel waving Carolina fans.

It set up Kasay's 34-yard field goal for a 29-10 lead. A downright blowout by Carolina's standards, and the Panthers returned to the field for a victory lap after the game.

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