The Panthers came into this game as an underdog despite being one of the few undefeated teams left in the league through the first three weeks of the season. They faced some adversity for the first time in 2021 after allowing the Cowboys to score the first points of the game, but the offense responded immediately with a touchdown drive of their own to tie the game at 7-7.
The defense struggled at times to contain the Cowboys offense — and were also fighting against bad calls from officials that somehow always benefited Dallas — and once again found themselves behind on the scoreboard in the second quarter. Sam Darnold took matters into his own hands again for his second rushing touchdown of the game to put the Panthers up 14-13, and that score held for the remainder of the first half.
The Panthers fell apart in the third quarter and were outscored 20-0 and outgained 173-73, and the Cowboys built a 33-14 lead by the time the quarter was over. Sam Darnold threw two critical interceptions that swayed the game in Dallas’ favor, and the defense fell apart after spending the majority of the time out on the field.
The Panthers showed some fight in the fourth quarter and made things interesting, but couldn’t get the stop they needed in the final four minutes of the game, and the Cowboys were able to run out the clock and preserve their 36-28 win over Carolina to drop the Panthers’ record to 3-1 on the year.
This was a tough loss for the Panthers, but they showed a lot of heart, grit and fight when things got rough for them in the second half. They return home next week for a date with Eagles, and hopefully they will be able to put today’s loss behind them and get back to their winning ways.
If you’re interested in a more detailed breakdown of the game, you can find one below broken down by quarter.
The Panthers won the coin toss and deferred to the second half. Carolina’s defense almost forced a turnover on the first play of the game, but Dak Prescott was able to toss a desperation pass to Ezekiel Elliott for a minimal gain. The Panthers forced a three-and-out to quickly get the ball into the hands of their offense, but the offense couldn’t produce anything positive and also had to punt after going three-and-out.
The Cowboys drove down the field efficiently and scored the game’s first touchdown on their next drive. The Panthers were soundly beat on the line of scrimmage and didn’t offer much resistance to the Cowboys’ offense as they drove down the field for the go-ahead score. The extra point was good and the Cowboys took a 7-0 lead with 7:27 left in the quarter.
The Panthers responded with a touchdown drive of their own that was capped off by a Sam Darnold 1-yard touchdown run on third-and-goal. Zane Gonzalez hit the extra point to tie the game at 7-7 with 2:41 left in the quarter. DJ Moore came up big for the Panthers to set them up with a first-and-goal situation that allowed Darnold to tie the game with his fourth rushing touchdown of the year.
The Cowboys took over on offense and took advantage of a missed call by the officials when they missed a clear fumble and ruled forward progress to allow Dallas to maintain possession. Dallas picked up a big first down on fourth-and-2 to keep their drive going before time expired on the quarter with the game tied at 7-7.
The Cowboys continued their drive and ended up with another touchdown on a pass from Prescott to Blake Jarwin. The Cowboys went for two — and failed to convert — and led 13-7 with just over 14 minutes left in the quarter.
The Panthers responded by driving the ball straight down the field and ended the drive on another touchdown run by Darnold (his fifth of the year). The extra point was good and the Panthers took a 14-13 lead with 7:02 left in the quarter.
The Panthers defense allowed the Cowboys to approach midfield but clamped down and forced Dallas to punt on fourth-and-3. After a fair catch the Panthers took over inside their own 10-yard line for their next drive with a little over four minutes left in the first half.
The Panthers couldn’t get anything going and had to punt the ball back to Dallas, but the Panthers’ defense stepped up and forced a three-and-out to give the offense a chance to put points on the board with 0:48 left in the half. Darnold was sacked on first down and the Panthers decided to run the clock out to protect their 14-13 lead at the half.
The Panthers received the second half kickoff and made it to just inside Dallas territory before facing a fourth-and-7. They attempted a 54-yard field goal but Gonzalez was wide left on his effort and the Panthers came away with no points. The Cowboys took advantage of the field position and capped off a touchdown drive with a 35-yard touchdown pass from Prescott to Amari Cooper to give the Cowboys a 20-14 lead with just over 10 minutes left in the quarter.
The Panthers went three-and-out on their next drive and gave the ball right back to the Cowboys. Sam Darnold was sacked again — the fourth time he has been sacked so far today — on third down that forced Carolina to punt. The Cowboys took advantage of a tired defense and rammed the ball right down the Panthers’ throats and scored another touchdown to extend their lead to 26-14 with 7:21 left in the quarter. They went for two but failed to convert, which kept the Panthers’ deficit at 12 points.
The Panthers turned the ball over after Darnold threw a costly interception and the Cowboys made them pay with another touchdown. The extra point extended their lead to 33-14 with 2:17 left in the quarter. The Cowboys picked off another Darnold pass on third down on the following drive to take over deep in Carolina territory. The Cowboys ran the remaining time off the clock and faced a fourth-and-1 at the end of the quarter.
The Cowboys lined up to go for it on fourth-and-1 to start the quarter but challenged the spot on the previous play. They lost the challenge and settled for a 37-yard field goal to extend their lead to 36-14 with 14:56 left in the game.
The Panthers grabbed one touchdown back with 8:58 left when Darnold found Moore in the end zone for the score to make the game 36-21. The Panthers showed some grit on that drive and didn’t completely give up, which doesn’t mean much in the win-loss column but at least showed they do have some fight in them.
The Panthers defense got a stop and gave the ball back to the offense down by 15 points with 6:49 left in the game. The Panthers ran the hurry-up and scored another touchdown — a Darnold pass to Moore — to pull even closer. The extra point was good and the Panthers made it a 36-28 game with 4:31 left in regulation. Brandon Zylstra came up huge with a 51-yard catch and run on fourth down to set the Panthers up for the score.
The Panthers needed a stop on defense to give their offense a chance to tie the game and they unfortunately could not accomplish that goal. The Cowboys were able to run the remaining time off the clock to seal the 36-28 win, dropping the Panthers’ record to 3-1 on the year.