Unbeaten Panthers bring stingy defense into Dallas
The Dallas Cowboys are receiving kudos after wins over the Los Angeles Chargers and Philadelphia Eagles.
Their next opponent is the Carolina Panthers, who’ll arrive for Sunday afternoon’s game as one of the NFL’s early surprises.
The largely new-look Panthers will have to do quite a bit to usurp the positivity suddenly associated with the Cowboys (2-1), who have Dak Prescott’s efforts leading the way.
“We’re treating this game as an uncommon opponent,” Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said of preparing for Carolina. “We’ve got to make sure we know these guys. They’re playing with some juice.”
The Panthers (3-0) won their first three games for the first time since 2015, when they played in the Super Bowl behind MVP Cam Newton. That’s the last time the team visited AT&T Stadium, winning a Thanksgiving Day game vs. Dallas.
The Panthers have had extra time to prepare as they played last week on Thursday night. On the flip side, the Cowboys have a shorter turnaround, having trounced the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night.
“That’s all part of the challenge,” McCarthy said.
The Panthers have been busy since their last game. Carolina made a trade because of a foot injury that’s going to keep rookie first-round cornerback Jaycee Horn out for a significant amount of time. Carolina acquired cornerback C.J. Henderson from the Jacksonville Jaguars in return for tight end Dan Arnold.
“We need as many guys as we can get,” Carolina coach Matt Rhule said. “We’re just going to bring C.J. along like we bring the rest of these guys along.”
Still, it’s going to be tricky for Carolina’s defense because safety Juston Burris was placed on injured reserve with a groin injury. Plus, Henderson arrives with a groin ailment, so his availability could be in question for the Dallas game.
“This is a new week,” Panthers safety Jeremy Chinn said. “We’ve got guys who can play. We trust they’ll come in and make plays. … The standard remains the standard, whoever is on the field.”
That standard: The Panthers allow a league-best 191.0 yards per game and are second in the NFL in points allowed (10.0) through three games.
Running back Christian McCaffrey is out with a hamstring injury suffered in the Houston game. He had a total of 59 touches across the first two games of the season, so he was a major part of the game plan.
This likely means more responsibility for running back Chuba Hubbard. Rhule said he expects multiple players to be called upon to fill McCaffrey’s role.
Prescott has completed 77.5 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and two interceptions. Some of his three-game numbers are similar to those posted by Carolina quarterback Sam Darnold, who has 888 yards passing to Prescott’s 878.
DJ Moore already has factored heavily into the Carolina passing attack. His 126 receiving yards last week against Houston gave him his 10th career game with 100 or more receiving yards.
Though Darnold is in his first season with the Panthers, Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn should be familiar with portions of Carolina’s personnel. He was previously head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, a division rival of the Panthers.
“He has got some fantastic receivers,” Quinn said of Darnold. “One thing they’ve done a good job of is that they don’t give the ball away and their time of possession has been strong.”
Quinn’s defense leads the NFL with eight takeaways.
The Cowboys have won nine of 12 meetings with Carolina, though the Panthers have won the past two matchups.
–Field Level Media