The Carolina Panthers meant well in Week 4. Despite being depleted, they fought for a half and a late fourth-quarter surge until they fell 36-28 to the Dallas Cowboys and leaving AT&T Stadium 3-1 on the season. Here are a few takeaways:
Dallas’ Miscues And Carolina’s Early Success
After scoring early in the first quarter, Dallas attempted a two-point conversion that failed. There was no reason to go for two at that point in the game other than the greed for an early advantage. Dallas also declined a face mask penalty that would have had the Panthers at 2nd and 27. Carolina capitalized on those mistakes to take a 14-13 lead at halftime.
If head coach Mike McCarthy wasn’t making baffling decisions on the sidelines, tackle Terence Steele failed on all of his assignments. On one drive he missed so many Panthers on a screen play that Hall Of Fame Wide Receiver Michael Irvin took to Twitter to demand that the Cowboys take Steele out of the game.
Steele’s miscues benefited the Panthers’ offense (Namely rookie Running Back Chubba Hubbard.) Those missed blocks helped move the chains on the ground and through the air for Panthers’ scoring opportunities and early surge.
Defense’s Tale of Two Halves
Coming into the game, there were concerns about how the Panthers’ defense (particularly the secondary) would hold up despite injuries and against the potent Cowboys’ offense of Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, and Cee Dee Lamb. However, Carolina’s defense continued to dominate. They held Prescott to 103 yards passing at the half, and Cooper to 34 yards on 2 receptions despite missing Jaycee Horn.
In the second half, Carolina ran out of gas and the Cowboys adapted and picked the defense apart. Prescott hit the depleted secondary for a 35-yard touchdown to Cooper early in the third quarter. Prescott followed that up with a 23-yard touchdown to Cedric Wilson; putting the Cowboys up 32-14 heading into the fourth.
What some don’t realize is that the success of the Panthers’ passing defense is linked to the rush. When the front seven couldn’t contain Ezekiel Elliott in the second half, the secondary also fell off.
No Answer for Cowboys’ Defense.
In order for the Panthers to have any kind of shot, Sam Darnold had to pick his battles wisely and take care of the football. He did for a half. He managed the game and the lead for a half. However, Dallas’ defense adapted and adjusted. Leading the way was Cowboys’ DB Trevon Diggs with two interceptions. The Cowboys’ rush defense also pressured Darnold into those interceptions and forced him to throw deep and also neutralized Carolina’s depleted running game. DJ Moore was the lone bright spot in an otherwise out-of-sync offense. On the day, Moore recorded 113 yards receiving and two touchdowns on eight receptions.
The Panthers will try to bounce back in week 5 as they host the Philadelphia Eagles.