Tony Romo, Cowboys play it safe

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Six autumns ago, Tony Romo stood in the same small room tucked off to the side of the visitors' locker room inside Bank of America Stadium, wearing a tattered T-shirt from his days at Burlington (Wis.) High School that detailed his weightlifting abilities as a senior.

He was as delighted as he could be following the first start of his career that ended in a convincing victory and kick-started a Dallas Cowboys season that was in desperate need of a kick-start.

On Sunday, Romo -- who wore a crisp, gray designer suit this time -- seemed more relieved than delighted following career win No. 50 after the Cowboys' 19-14 victory against the Carolina Panthers.

"This team grinded its way out," Romo said, "and we did the things that were ultimately needed to win and that was good to see."

Maybe he's right.

Romo's final numbers are OK: 24 of 34, 227 yards, one touchdown for a 98.5 passer rating, which is his second-highest of the season. Most importantly, Romo did not have a pass intercepted in a game for the first time this season. He was not sacked, either.

But the numbers could have been a lot better and the victory a lot smoother. Probably should have been a lot better, too, even with DeMarco Murray watching from home with a sprained foot.

Instead of just one touchdown pass, Romo -- who joined Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman and Danny White as Cowboys quarterbacks with 50 wins -- had a chance for the 26th three-touchdown-pass game of his career.

The first miss was on Romo. The second miss was on Dez Bryant.

As a result, the Panthers were able to stick around until the final seconds, and the win felt almost less fulfilling than last week's 31-29 loss to Baltimore.

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