The Carolina Panthers stayed competitive for the first half, but the Dallas Cowboys defense started to take over soon into the second half of play. Dallas outscored Carolina by 20 points in the third quarter, giving them the momentum they needed to hand the Panthers a 36-28 loss — Sam Darnold & Co.'s first of the season.
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Dak Prescott was firing on all cylinders against the Panthers. He threw for 188 yards on 22 pass attempts but did throw a touchdown pass to four different receivers. Prescott didn't record a single turnover-worthy play and is set to finish with a 60.0-plus PFF passing grade upon first review.
The Panthers' defense had allowed just 45 rushing yards per game over the first three weeks, but the Cowboys eclipsed that mark within the first eight minutes of the game.
Ezekiel Elliott was the engine that kept Cowboys drives alive, as he led the team with 143 yards and a touchdown. He kept his legs moving for four explosive runs of 10 or more yards and 112 yards after contact.
Wide receivers/tight ends
Only five players caught a pass for the Cowboys, but four of them caught a touchdown. Amari Cooper came down with the best pass of the day, a deep pass that dropped into his arms along the sideline near the end zone for a 35-yard touchdown. Dalton Schultz led the team with six receptions that led to 58 yards and a score.
CeeDee Lamb was held in check and didn’t catch a pass until the second half. He finished the game with two receptions for 13 yards.
|Player||Receptions||Yards||TD||Yards per route run|
The Cowboys won this game at the line of scrimmage, limiting the pressure allowed on Prescott and creating big holes in the run game.
The offensive line allowed just seven pressures on first review. Tyler Biadasz played 23 pass-blocking snaps and kept a perfect slate as a pass-blocker.
The Cowboys took advantage of the Panthers' struggling offensive line. The defensive line combined for 18 pressures and five sacks, two of which came courtesy of veteran Randy Gregory.
Osa Odighizuwa created the most pressure on the team, with five. The unit also combined for nine defensive stops and three tackles for loss.
|Player||Pass-rush snaps||Sacks||Pressures generated|
After lining up as an edge rusher for the better part of the past two games, Micah Parsons played most of his snaps at linebacker against the Panthers. He finished the game with four tackles, two defensive stops and one sack on 13 pass-rush snaps.
Leighton Vander Esch finished with five total tackles and two defensive stops but allowed three receptions in coverage.
Micah Parsons alignment by position
|Position||Snaps||% of snaps|
Trevon Diggs’ interception streak reached four consecutive games after picking off Darnold twice in the third quarter on passes intended for Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore. Outside of the two interceptions, Diggs allowed four receptions on nine targets for a team-high 82 yards.
Anthony Brown earned the highest coverage grade on the team (80.1) by allowing three receptions on seven targets and forcing two incompletions.
Sam Darnold was more effective on the ground than he was through the air. He rushed for 35 yards and scored on the ground twice for his league-leading fourth and fifth rushing touchdowns of the season.
Darnold threw for 114 yards in the first half but started to struggle against the pressure brought by the Dallas pass rush. He threw two interceptions that led to 14 points for the Cowboys.
The former No. 3 overall pick also threw for 187 yards and two touchdowns in the second half but the damage was already done before he got back in his groove.
Sam Darnold stats by half
|First Half||Second Half|
The Panthers stayed committed to the run with Chuba Hubbard — at least until the team went down by double digits. Hubbard led the team with 57 yards on the ground, with 42 of them coming after contact. He also ran for two explosive plays of 10-plus yards.
With the Panthers trailing in the second half, Rodney Smith was used heavily in the hurry-up offense, catching five passes for 48 yards.
Wide receivers/tight ends
When the game was out of reach, the Panthers called more and more pass plays. This led to a big day for D.J. Moore, who finished with eight receptions for 113 yards and two second-half touchdowns.
The Panthers' offensive line was never a strength, and it struggled against a competent pass rush today. Darnold was sacked five times in the game, and the offensive line allowed 15 pressures.
|Player||Pass-blocking grade||Pass-blocking snaps||Sacks allowed||Pressures allowed|
*upon first review
Carolina's pass rush has been strong so far but failed to generate pressure on Prescott consistently throughout the game. Brian Burns created five of the unit’s eight pressures in the game, but the defensive line failed to sack the opposing quarterback for the first time this season.
Burns generated the highest pass-rush win rate on the team at 21.1%, with the next closest being Derrick Brown at 6.7%.
Shaq Thompson and Jermaine Carter each played over 30 snaps in the game but were unable to make an impact. The duo combined for eight tackles, two defensive stops and one tackle for loss, but Thompson missed a pair of tackles in coverage that proved costly.
Jaycee Horn doesn’t mean everything to the Panthers secondary, but they dearly missed him in this game against a talented receiver group, as Sam Franklin and Jeremy Chinn combined to allow three touchdowns. Donte Jackson allowed just two receptions on five targets and forced the only incompletion for the Panthers.
Newly acquired C.J. Henderson didn’t play much in his Panthers debut but did allow a big 35-yard touchdown to Amari Cooper along the sideline. It was the only time he was targeted throughout the game.