Let the good times roll. The Dallas Cowboys headed into Charlotte and picked up another decisive win in front of their “home” crowd. Cowboys fans overtook Bank of America Stadium and watched their team pick up another convincing victory, this time over the Carolina Panthers. The Cowboys offense played mistake-free football. Meanwhile, the defense forced multiple turnovers and the team scored ten points off those turnovers, equaling the points scored by Carolina. In total, the Cowboys recorded seven sacks. Though the Cowboys won by a comfortable margin, a few of their players were stand-out performers and are the stars of the game.
Markequese Bell has taken well to his expanded role. Whether you want to call him a linebacker or call him a safety, it doesn’t matter. Bell is playing with the lateral quickness and speed to neutralize runs to the perimeter and the physicality to take on offensive linemen to defend inside runs. Carolina did have some success running the ball, but Bell did his best to limit the Panthers. Bell led the team in tackles with ten, making six of them by himself.
Overall, the Cowboys’ offense wasn’t nearly as productive as last week, which is a high benchmark to meet. The Cowboys didn’t dominate the time of possession, and the Panthers found some success in their running game, shortening the game for the Dallas offense. That said, Tony Pollard played a gritty game against a defensive front that didn’t allow Dallas much space to work with. Pollard and the offense persisted, and Pollard had 80 yards from scrimmage. (61 rushing yards, 19 receiving yards) Pollard’s patience paid off with a highlight reel touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
Reacting to Pollard’s score, McCarthy’s expression said it all. Pollard has never been known to be a power back, but the strength he showed barreling over the Carolina defense and plunging into the end zone was arguably the play of the day. The score was Pollard’s frustration unleashed, considering that was his first touchdown since week one of the season. Pollard’s involvement in the offense is a step in the right direction.
DaRon Bland is unreal right now. Bland has been sensational filling in as the outside corner opposite of Stephon Gilmore in the wake of Trevon Diggs’ season-ending injury. Bland hauled in his sixth interception of the year, and his fourth returned for a touchdown. Four pick-sixes is an NFL record, and the young corner has made a habit of finding the end zone.
The throw from Bryce Young was well-placed, but Bland’s exceptional closing speed and strong hands allowed him to make the catch. What’s equally impressive is Bland’s mindfulness to realize he was not touched down by contact by the intended receiver, got off the ground, and raced past Young for the score. In the postgame interview, Bland credited his previous experience as a receiver as the catalyst for his playmaking ability.
When you examine Bland’s coverage numbers outside of the game against Carolina, they are mind-blowing. Before today’s game, Bland allowed only 50% of passes thrown in his direction to be completed. In that same sample, Bland has allowed a passer rating of 34. The Cowboys have struck gold with the former fifth-round pick. Bland is surpassing expectations and playing like an All-Pro.
You can’t keep a good guy down, let alone a premier player like Micah Parsons. As we all know, statistics aren’t everything regarding Parsons. Still, it is surprising for Parsons not to leave his mark in the box score following last week’s game against the New York Giants. However, against the Panthers, Parsons was fantastic. Parsons recorded two and a half sacks, and three quarterback hits on Bryce Young, making a home in the Carolina backfield.
Parsons won several snaps against the offensive line with his assortment of pass-rush moves and explosiveness off the line of scrimmage. Parsons lined up in various spots, including defensive tackle, and wreaked havoc. His speed was no match against the Panthers, and he ran through their offensive line like a hot knife through butter. The “Lion” mauled the Panthers. Parsons gets a prime opportunity on Thanksgiving to feast on Washington Commanders’ quarterback Sam Howell, who has been sacked 47 times this season.
Don’t let the ho-hum numbers fool you. Dak Prescott took an early exit from the game like last week, but he played a terrific game against Carolina. Once again, Prescott made no mistakes and kept the offense ahead of schedule. The Cowboys, who are third-best in the NFL in 3rd-down conversion rate, went 7 of 16 on third downs (43%) on Sunday. The Panthers blitzed Prescott often on 3rd and long, and Prescott manipulated the pocket easily to find open receivers past the sticks. Speaking of his receivers, Prescott completed a pass to eight different receivers, spreading the ball around through the offense’s playmakers.
On one of Prescott’s touchdown passes, the Panthers gave Dallas a pressure look on 3rd and goal. Prescott changed the offensive line’s protection and delivered an excellent pass to CeeDee Lamb in the back corner of the end zone to give the Cowboys a 17-3 lead right before halftime. Over the last four games, Prescott has thrown 13 passing touchdowns versus two interceptions. Prescott has excelled at every level of quarterbacking over the last month and is arguably playing the best football of his career.