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After further review: Defense does the heavy lifting in the Cowboys blowout win over the Panthers

What was your biggest takeaway from Sunday’s Cowboys win?

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Carolina Panthers Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys beat the Carolina Panthers by 23 points to go to 7-3 on the year. After coming off such a stellar performance the previous week against the New York Giants, the game on Sunday felt a little disappointing. It shouldn’t be though, because the Cowboys took care of business.

Of course, we at BTB like to dig a little deeper and see if there are some things we may have not caught during the first run-through. Here are some key points we can take from this game after further review.


We could do a featured piece on Micah Parsons each week and it would be relevant because the guy is regularly the center of attention. Statistically speaking, some weeks are better than others, but regardless, the guy always makes an impact. On Sunday, it was no different and he collected 2.5 sacks on the day, putting him at 10 for the year. He’s the only player in franchise history to record double-digit sacks in each of his first three seasons in the NFL.

Parsons lines up all over the place and has the speed and hand work to fly through offensive linemen as if they’re not even there. It has to be an unsettling feeling to see No. 11 come bursting up the middle and right into your grill, and that is what rookie quarterback Bryce Young had to deal with quite often on Sunday.


Parsons is the enforcer, but the Cowboys pass rush is a group effort. There are so many contributors who cause problems for the opposing offensive line. You can set your watch to Dorance Armstrong getting around the edge, DeMarcus Lawrence making unsung plays, and Sam Williams coming away with a sack as he has done in three straight games now. Dan Quinn’s group is all hands on deck and the defensive line continues to cause problems.


What more can we say about DaRon Bland that hasn’t already been said? He’s fantastic. The Cowboys have a “type” of cornerback they like and Bland embodies it to a tee. He has the length, he has the instincts, and he has the closing speed. Put them all together and you have a corner who repeatedly makes house calls.

This is the third time this season that the Cowboys' defense has allowed less than 80 yards passing.


The team’s first-round pick, Mazi Smith, is under constant scrutiny because of his draft cost and the elevated expectations from the performance of previous first-rounders. While more is expected, the rookie continues to progress and has gotten a decent share of reps on a stacked defensive line group. Smith is still coming off the snap late, which was a knock on him in college, but he’s showing good hand fighting and nice lateral quickness. Give this guy time, and he’ll be just fine.


The box score will only show you that the Cowboys had 107 total rushing yards, averaging just 4.0 yards per carry, but that doesn’t tell you the whole story. There were instances where the team got hit with some negative plays thanks to some cute wild cat run plays or just Derrick Brown blowing up the middle, but there’s another part of this that shouldn’t go unnoticed. Of the 20 total carries between Tony Pollard and Rico Dowdle, eight of them (40%) went for seven or more yards. This put the offense in some favorable down and distances. Credit both Pollard and Dowdle for running hard and turning small gains into bigger gains while lowering their head and churning those legs. None was more impressive than Pollard’s 21-yard touchdown run.


Dak Prescott has been on a tear in recent weeks throwing for over 300 yards in each of the last three games, including a 404-yard performance last week against the Giants. That’s why it was a little unexpected to see him only throw for 189 yards against a weak Panthers defense.

The Panthers' defense came out with a plan and executed it really well. They laid back in a deep shell enticing short throws but then closed fast to break up several plays. They also tackled extremely well to where the Cowboys weren’t able to get many yards after the catch when they did hit the short stuff. While Prescott only completed 65.8% of his passes which was his lowest total since Week 5 against San Francisco, he was more on target than it seemed. There were several instances where the ball was thrown perfectly, but the receiver wasn’t able to come down with the catch. Again, credit the Panthers' defense for making it difficult.

Last week, Prescott was aided by some brilliant catches, and this week he wasn’t. It happens.

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