So much for a trap game. The Cowboys went on the road for an early kickoff against a Panthers team that desperately needed to play well and came away with a pretty strong 33-10 victory. The Cowboys weren’t as dominant as they had been in recent weeks, but they still managed to cover a fairly large point spread in the win.
Dallas still won in a blowout, but it took a little more work to get there than it did a week ago. As such, these five plays were crucial in the Cowboys wrapping this one up.
Micah Parsons sacks Bryce Young on third down
Early on it looked like this game might actually be close. After the Cowboys offense started with a three-and-out, the Panthers started putting together an extended drive. Bryce Young hit Adam Thielen on two different third downs to move the chains.
By the time the next third down came up, Carolina was on the Dallas 37, just on the cusp of field goal range. Young dropped back to pass, but he couldn’t find Thielen this time. Instead, Micah Parsons exploded up the middle to bring Young down for a sack.
Not only did this end the Panthers’ drive, but it pushed them well out of range for a field goal. Just like that, a potential lead for the Panthers was turned into a punt with the game still scoreless.
Tony Pollard’s big run on third down
The Cowboys offense woke up on their second drive of the day, with Tony Pollard and KaVontae Turpin combining for two big plays right off the bat. Before long, they had entered Panthers territory, but were staring at third and four. With the ball on the Carolina 40-yard line, the Cowboys were maybe in a spot for Brandon Aubrey to try a field goal, but it would be a stretch.
On third down, Dak Prescott took the snap out of the shotgun and tossed out to the right for Tony Pollard, who already had some blockers out in front. He burst through the hole and took the ball way upfield, gaining a total of 22 yards and easily moving the chains.
Pollard did more than just gain the first down, as he put the Cowboys right inside the red zone with this big play. Just two plays later, the Cowboys scored their first touchdown of the day. Without this big conversion from Pollard, though, they may have been trying a really long field goal instead.
Double penalty on Xavier Woods extends Cowboys drive
A big part of this game centered on the Panthers making life harder for themselves, which is about what you expect for a team with only one win halfway through November. And while the Cowboys didn’t play their best on Sunday, Carolina made sure to keep giving them chances.
On the Cowboys’ next offensive possession after their touchdown, they fell way behind schedule after a failed Wildcat play lost 10 yards. On third and 19, Prescott hit Brandin Cooks, who got tackled out of bounds by former Cowboys safety Xavier Woods after just eight yards.
Problem is Woods was flagged for a rare double penalty: both facemask and horse-collar, or as Kevin Burkhardt put it, the horsemask. Only the horse-collar was enforced, but it gave the Cowboys an automatic first down inside the red zone instead of having to try a longer field goal than the 30-yarder they eventually made.
Dak Prescott gets drilled in the head, penalty keeps drive alive
Once the Panthers scored their first points of the game, cutting the score to 10-3, Dallas was trying to bounce back with another touchdown. A big play to Michael Gallup flipped the field, but the Cowboys quickly found themselves in a third and 10 at the Carolina 41.
Prescott dropped back, but was forced to scramble up the middle as the pressure got to him. After picking up just three yards, Prescott went to slide, at which point he got drilled in the head by Amare Barno.
Unsurprisingly, flags flew and Barno was penalized for unnecessary roughness. The 15-yard penalty and automatic first down set the Cowboys up just outside of the red zone, and gave the offense new life on this drive. Without the penalty, Dallas likely punts there.
Another unnecessary roughness penalty gives Cowboys life
The Cowboys may have been given new life, but they didn’t do much with it. A draw to Pollard was blown up on the next play, resulting in a loss of six, and a drop from Jalen Tolbert suddenly made it third and 16.
This time, Prescott hit CeeDee Lamb short of the sticks, and Lamb made a nice move to pick up some extra yards. Still, he was tackled six yards shy of the first down, setting up for another field goal. However, there was another flag.
Another unnecessary roughness penalty, as a Panthers defender had shoved KaVontae Turpin in the back as Lamb was being tackled. This was arguably the most critical of the Panthers’ three huge penalties, as it was the most avoidable. Instead of kicking a field goal, Dallas had first down inside the 10 and, three plays later, Prescott found Lamb for a touchdown. That upped the score to 17-3, which was pretty much game over against a Panthers offense that managed to score 17+ points in just three games this year.