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Big Mo: How the Panthers let the Cowboys run wild in a Week 4 loss

Let’s look at the biggest plays in swinging momentum in Carolina’s dispiriting 36-28 loss to Dallas. 

Carolina Panthers v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

The Big Mo series highlights the plays (or series of plays) that had the biggest impact on swinging the Panthers win percentage as calculated by ESPN. In Week 4 Carolina got annihilated in the third quarter as Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys pounded the Panthers into submission. Here are the big plays that the let the game get away from Matt Rhule’s squad:

ESPN

First quarter 11:13 - Panthers 0, Cowboys 0

Dak’s 15-yard scramble on first-and-20 (44% to 26% Panthers win percentage): Both teams began with three-and-outs to start the game. On the Cowboys second possession they faced first-and-20 from their own 39. The shotgun snap to Dak Prescott skidded on the ground before Prescott scooped it up and ran for 15 yards on a broken play. Dallas now faced a manageable second-and-5, continued their drive, and ultimately scored a touchdown for an early 7-0 lead. Carolina’s win percentage tumbled to 26%.

First quarter 4:55 - Panthers 0, Cowboys 7

DJ Moore sets up at touchdown (31% to 49%): On the possession following Dallas’ first score, DJ Moore hauled in three passes for 47 yards. He got tackled on the one yard line to set up a Sam Darnold rushing touchdown and a 7-7 game. Thanks to Moore, Carolina now had about 50/50 odds of winning.

First quarter 1:47 - Panthers 7, Cowboys 7

Refs hose the Panthers on the “forward momentum” fumble (49% to 36%). Jeremy Chinn lit up Dalton Schultz on a 10-yard reception, jarring the ball loose and the Panthers recovered the fumble. But the refs inexplicably blew the play dead because they claimed Schultz’s forward progress had stopped, which it clearly hadn’t. This call isn’t reviewable so instead of the Panthers taking possession near midfield, the Cowboys kept the ball. Both announcers and Dean Blandino said it was a clear fumble. Dallas went on to score a momentum-shifting touchdown on a drive that should’ve ended with a turnover. This was an inexcusably bad call and clearly impacted the flow of the rest of the game. Carolina now trailed 13-7.

Second quarter 13:16 - Panthers 7, Cowboys 13

Darnold delivers twice on third-and-long (29% to 59%): Following the Cowboys touchdown to go up 13-7, the Panthers were facing a three-and-out on third-and-12. Sam Darnold connected with Robby Anderson for 13 yards and a first down. Three plays later Carolina faced third-and-11 when Sam Darnold scrambled for 14. The Panthers went on to score a touchdown to take a 14-13 lead with 7:09 left in the first half. Carolina now had a 59% win percentage. The Panthers had taken control of Big Mo!

Third quarter 12:54 - Panthers 14, Cowboys 13

Zane misses a long field goal, Dallas then scores (44% to 18%): This series essentially put the game away for Dallas. First, with 12:54 left in the third quarter, Zane Gonzalez missed a 54 yard field goal. After the miss the Cowboys were set up with great field position at the Dallas 44. Four plays later Amari Cooper scored on a 35-yard touchdown and the Cowboys went up 20-14. Carolina’s win percentage fell to just 18% and barely improved from there as Dallas went on to outscore the Panthers 20-0 in the third quarter to put the game away.

Big Mo MVP: DJ Moore

Man, is this guy good. Moore had eight receptions for 113 yards and two scores. He had three receptions for 47 yards on the Panthers first touchdown drive. On fourth-and-1 in the third quarter he rushed for six yards on a jet sweep. He showed his next level run after the catch on this spectacular play where he shook off half the Cowboys secondary.

What I liked

  • Seeing Robby Anderson finally get involved with five receptions for 46 yards. He had just five receptions in three games coming into this one.
  • Joe Brady’s designed runs in the red zone for Sam Darnold.
  • This was my first time hearing Greg Olsen in the booth as the color announcer, and he’s really, really good.

What I didn’t like

  • Watching Dallas’ offensive line dominate the Panthers front four.
  • The ref’s horrible call on the Dalton Schultz forward progress fumble.
  • Matt Rhule’s decision to attempt a 54-yard field goal with the very unproven Zane Gonzalez.
  • Tommy Tremble having zero receptions the week after Dan Arnold was traded.
  • Both Jeremy Chinn and CJ Henderson struggling in coverage.
  • Sam Darnold’s two really bad third quarter interceptions.

The Panthers sit at 3-1 after getting manhandled by the Cowboys. Next is a home game against the 1-3 Philadelphia Eagles. Carolina is the early favorite in this matchup so a solid 4-1 start to the season wouldn’t be all that surprising.