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Cowboys news: Dallas falls to Panthers, begin season on wrong foot as offense sputters

The Monday morning links.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Carolina Panthers Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys @ Panthers: Dallas just wasn’t ready for this game, falls 16-8 - Tom Ryle, BTB

Tom recaps the Cowboys’ opening-season loss to the Panthers on Sunday afternoon.

The season opened with a thud for the Dallas Cowboys as they dropped their opener 16-8 to the Carolina Panthers in a mistake ridden effort. They could get nothing going until the second half and were outplayed on both sides of the ball. Despite that, they managed to get it to a one possession game in the fourth quarter as the offense began to show a modicum of life, but the last hope was snuffed out on a strip sack of Dak Prescott.

A lot of games this first week of the NFL schedule have raised the question of just how much NFL teams really need preseason games, and this one was certainly evidence that keeping your starters in bubble wrap can lead to really bad football. The Cowboys looked confused for much of the game, and ineptitude on the part of the offense left the Dallas defense looking definitely worn down as the second half progressed. The loss of Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, and Dan Bailey are going to be talked about a lot this week, as the offense sputtered for so much of the game and Brett Maher missed his first field goal attempt as a Cowboy.

Game Recap: Cowboys Fall To Panthers, 16-8 - Kurt Daniels, The Mothership

Daniels writes his take.

It was a case of too little, too late for the Dallas Cowboys in their season-opening loss to the Carolina Panthers.

The Cowboys offense struggled badly in the first half and then couldn’t quite do enough in the second in a 16-8 loss to the host team. Overall, the stats weren’t remarkably different … at least on paper. Carolina outgained the Cowboys, 293 to 232, had more first downs, 20-17, and held a narrow time of possession, 30:36 to 29:24.

But that doesn’t tell the true tale of the tape. The Panthers largely dominated through the first two quarters as Dallas punted on all five of its first half possessions and managed only 60 yards of offense. That included 18 yards on seven carries for Ezekiel Elliott and 6-of-10 passing for 46 yards by Dak Prescott.

This is what went wrong for the Cowboys in a season-opening loss to the Panthers - Clarence Hill, The Star-Telegram

What went wrong on Sunday? Hill breaks it down.

3. The Cowboys receivers and tight ends will be a focal point because of the retirement of Jason Witten and the release of Dez Bryant. The wide outs caught just three passes in the first half. Two went to Cole Beasley for 19 yards and one to Michael Gallup. Tight end Geoff Swaim led the Cowboys in receptions with three catches for 18 yards. But there were rarely any attempts down field and Prescott missed a wide open Blake Jarwin with an unconscionable under throw. The receivers picked things up in the fourth quarter, especially Beasley, who led the Cowboys with seven catches for 73 yards. But the lack of a true go-to threat hurt the offense late. Deonte Thompson dropped a potential catch on fourth down that would have kept a game-tying drive alive. Would Dez Bryant have made the play?

‘Jerry Garrett’ make season-opening Cowboys loss to Panthers a reality - Mac Engel, The Star-Telegram

Engel calls out the brain trust for the Cowboys’ performance.

The Dallas Cowboys’ season-opening loss was made possible by their brain (dead) trust who made this 0-1 dream a reality.

A brain (dead) trust that decided kicker Dan Bailey wasn’t as good as CFL guy Brett Maher.

When you decide not to play your starters for training camp, and put them in a nice warm blanket to keep them away from other football players, Sunday happens.

When you decide three points from an unreliable toe of Maher are just as likely as Bailey’s, Sunday happens.

The 2018 Dallas Cowboys are a .500 team praying to win 10; they now have 15 games remaining to lose five.

5 thoughts from Cowboys’ season-opening loss at Carolina: 3 brutal quarters for Dak Prescott; O-line play has to be better - Jon Machota, SportsDay

Machota is back with his post-game five thoughts.

1. The rust was obviously there in the first half and much of the third quarter. Many will point to how little this offensive unit played together in the preseason. A very good Carolina defense deserves some credit, too. Although the Cowboys’ defense is expected to be much improved this season, I can’t imagine Dallas winning many games if its offense isn’t scoring points in the first three quarters. Not one area could be blamed, either. It was everything. The running game wasn’t working. The underneath passing game wasn’t working. The downfield passing game was nonexistent. The biggest problem, though, came on third down as Dallas went 0 for 5 in the first half. Plenty of areas for Jason Garrett, Scott Linehan and the rest of the offensive coaching staff to clean up before facing the Giants next Sunday night.

Cowboys’ offense has no answers in first true test - Todd Archer, ESPN

The offense was certainly very concerning against the Panthers’ talented defense, and Dak has to be better moving forward.

If the Cowboys can’t make plays in the passing game, then life for Elliott will be extremely difficult. In his first two seasons, they have been able to run him effectively, but that wasn’t the case Sunday.

Elliott finished with 69 yards on 15 carries, with 33 of those yards coming on two runs in the second half.

Of Prescott’s six completions in the first half, none were deeper than 9 yards, and three were completed behind the line of scrimmage, according to ESPN Stats and Information data. With a chance to hit wide-open tight end Blake Jarwin on third-and-7 in the second quarter, Prescott was woefully short on his throw, caught between whether he should run for a first down or hit Jarwin.

National reaction: ‘Another Cowboys nightmare’; NY Giants will beat Dallas next week; Dak Prescott just isn’t good - SportsDay

If the national narrative means anything, the Cowboys are already 0-2.

Carolina Panthers defense (six sacks) whips Dallas in season opener, 16-8 - Scott Fowler, The Charlotte Observer

Six times — that is how many times that the Panthers got to Dak Prescott.

Carolina’s 16-8 season-opening win over Dallas Sunday was paced by a defense that stifled the Cowboys at almost every opportunity. Linebacker Luke Kuechly was ridiculously good — and returned quickly after apparently getting injured in the fourth quarter — as was defensive tackle Kawann Short (two sacks).

The run defense was strong as usual, led by a Panthers front four that mostly gobbled up the Dallas offensive line. The secondary — the big question mark — never allowed Dallas a huge game-changing play. And defensive end Mario Addison ultimately made the game-winning play when Dallas still had a chance, sacking Dak Prescott (Carolina’s sixth sack of the game) on the Cowboys’ last possession and forcing a fumble that Carolina recovered.

Is it time for Jason Garrett to be fired? How one oddsmaker ranks him among NFL peers - Peter Dawson, The Star-Telegram

Then there is this ...

Calls for Cowboys owner and general manager to fire head coach Jason Garrett likely got a good deal louder on Sunday, after the team lost to the Panthers in Carolina, 16-8, on Sunday.

The offense that features the talented backfield duo of quarterback Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott didn’t get going until late in the second half. And none of the wide receivers had a particularly productive day.

Many fans and some pundits believe Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones should have axed his head coach after the team missed the playoffs last season.

When asked of the coach was on the hot seat during the offseason, Jones answered ““It’s fair for you to ask. But he’s not on my hot seat.”

Be sure to check out RJ’s recap of the game and how Cowboys fans reacted to the loss. Hint: no one was happy with the Cowboys, and Connor Williams was singled-out for the fans’ ire.

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