What a game. This team certainly does not have a lack of drama and intrigue, that's for sure. The Dallas Cowboys used a second half surge to put away a tough, undefeated Carolina Panthers team en route to a 3-1 start on the 2021 season. This game had many ebbs and flows throughout, and the Cowboys were able to capitalize on some big-time play by Trevon Diggs and the defense in the third quarter to take a commanding lead that eventually played a huge part in sealing the victory. The Cowboys have officially put the league on notice and this team can certainly be viewed as a legitimate threat going forward. Here are 10 thoughts on the Cowboys thrilling week for victory over the Panthers.
1. The running game came ready to play
What a day for the running game. All day Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys rushing attack were able to take what they wanted from the league’s number one rated defense. Zeke finished with 143 rushing yards and one touchdown, while Tony Pollard finished with 10 carries and 67 yards. The Cowboys offense was up for the challenge all day long and they were able to take control and punch a tough defensive front in the mouth for 60 minutes to come out victorious.
2. Why the need to have player management so early in the game?
For those of us who watched the television broadcast, we were able to hear that Trevon Diggs was out for “player management purposes” and it wasn’t injury related. Meanwhile the Panthers used that time of rest to capitalize and score two touchdowns and make this game much tighter than it needed to be. The question remains, why? Why at that time, and why that player? Coming off his second interception of the day, the Cowboys pull off the best player in coverage in the middle of a game that is still undecided. Whether its been clock, or personnel, this coaching staff has had a questionable decision in every game this year and you just hope it doesn't come back to bite them at some point.
3. Dak is a magician
The first and second half looked like night and day on offense. In the first half we saw Dak improvising and finding ways to grit out positive plays to keep the offense moving, but coming out of the half the offense was humming and moving at will. What is important, though, is the fact even when things don't look smooth QB1 is there to steady the ship and keep the offense efficient and productive until things click and they get to moving like they should.
4. Defense had their issues, but came up big when they needed too
The defense had real troubles getting off the field on third downs, especially in the first half. Sam Darnold was able to extend drives and keep their offense operating, even on some third and distance looks. Ultimately the stars on this defense were able to stiffen up and help seal the win, but what will make this defense go from good to great is to find a way to consistently get off the field on third down to go with their impressive turnover numbers.
5. Trevon Diggs is a mega star
The Cowboys have a cold-blooded, lockdown cornerback in Trevon Diggs. Five interceptions in four games facing the level of wide receivers he has lined up across against is more than impressive, it is All-Pro level impressive. Look around the league and you would be hard pressed to find a cornerback that is playing better than him. The year is still so young and so is Diggs, and it is legitimately exciting to see what is in store for Trevon Diggs in the future.
6. The Cowboys used the third quarter missed field goal as a spring board
The Panthers opened the second half with a missed field goal and from that point on the Cowboys never looked back. The offense was clicking, the defense was attacking, Trevon Diggs was balling, and the Panthers had no answers for any of it. It truly was the tale of two halves in this football game. The Cowboys looked a bit off and somewhat sluggish in all phases in the first thirty minutes, but you could not say that about this team after the break.
7. Whether it is a tight end or a wide receiver, Dak is going to find the matchup
Seven of Dak’s first ten passes went to Dalton Schultz, Blake Jarwin got a touchdown, so did Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson. The moral of the story is, do your job, and Dak is going to find you. The “no ego” offense was on full display Sunday afternoon. Dak’s favorite target is the open one. Its a beautiful way to play the game of football when you are surrounded by talent and you can pick and choose your spot. Its conducive to longevity and the Cowboys can use this formula for quality offensive play for a long time.
8. Jayron Kearse is playing like an absolute stud
‘Big nickle’, starting strong safety, down in the box, or in coverage, Kearse is being asked to do it all and he has answered the call all season long. What a find by the Cowboys in free agency. The big-bodied safety has been a chess piece and a matchup nightmare for opposing offenses. As this team continues to get healthy and get players back, Kearse has solidified a role on this defense and must be involved on game day.
9. These young defensive players are the real deal
Micah Parsons, Osa Odighizuwa, and now add Chauncey Golston to the list of impressive defensive rookies this team picked this past draft. They all have had huge roles and have played a big part in this team’s success thus far this season. The future is bright and the Cowboys can be happy knowing that this defense looks to have some cornerstone pieces in the past two draft classes that look to shape the fortunes of this franchise going forward.
10. Beautiful play call to end it by Kellen Moore
Zeke and Pollard on the field at the same time, Zeke in motion, Dak hands it off and Zeke takes off for the edge, Pollard not far behind trailing, defenders close in on Zeke who flips it out Pollard, who makes a man miss and picks up the first down to ice the game for the Cowboys. Gutsy call, and a beautiful call all at the same time. Kellen Moore has been cooking with gas with these play-calls all season and this was just another demonstration of just that to put the Panthers down and extend the Cowboys record to 3-1.