Carolina dominated the first half versus Dallas and it was enough to carry the Panthers to a victory on the opening day of the NFL season.
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton rushed for 64 yards and a touchdown in the first half, paving the way for Carolina’s 16-8 victory over the Cowboys at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The Cowboys offense, which had so little time with the first-teamers on the field in the preseason, looked out of sync most of the afternoon. Quarterback Dak Prescott didn’t play after the second preseason game due to injuries on the Cowboys’ offensive line. Running back Ezekiel Elliott didn’t play at all before Sunday and took until the second half to find any running room against the Panthers’ front seven.
Prescott completed 19 of 29 passes for 170 yards, mostly in the second half. Elliott rushed for 69 yards and a touchdown, also mostly in the second half. But the Cowboys didn't score until the fourth quarter and were facing a 16-0 deficit by then.
“I thought I was off,” Prescott said.. “That is something you got to look at on film. I got to figure out why I was off.... I am not going to make excuses. We had a lot of time this week to prepare. We weren’t as sharp as we needed to be.”
Dallas kicker Brett Maher missed a 47-yard field-goal attempt, so he's still waiting to make his first NFL kick. That assured that the Dan Bailey fans will continue to decry the Cowboys' decision to cut the reliable kicker on September 1.
The Cowboys broke the scoring drought when Prescott led a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive midway through the fourth quarter. Elliott capped it with a four-yard touchdown run with 8:51 remaining.
However, Dallas’s final two drives failed to penetrate the Carolina 45 and a Prescott fumble at his own 14 with 90 seconds left effectively ended the game.
“I thought it was better in the second half,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “We opened it up more. We spread it out more. We felt more like ourselves. Obviously, it was not good enough. We have to score than eight points.”
Carolina started faster on offense and took a 7-0 lead when Newton ran four yards for a touchdown midway through the second quarter.
The Panthers tacked on a field goal when Graham Gano booted a 27-yarder with three seconds left in the second quarter.
With the Cowboys struggling to establish momentum, Panthers running back Alex Armah’s one-yard touchdown run a minute into the fourth quarter gave Carolina a comfortable lead.
Penalties hurt the Cowboys all day as they finished with 10 flags for 85 yards. On Dallas’s first foray into Carolina territory, late in the second quarter, right tackle Lael Collins was penalized for holding, backing the Cowboys up to a first-and-20 from the Carolina 39. Dallas got back to its original line of scrimmage, but that’s all and then Maher missed the field goal attempt.
Prescott completed 6 o 10 passes for 46 yards and was sacked twice in the first half. He also came up empty on a prime opportunity for a big play when he missed a wide open Blake Jarwin down the field late in the second quarter. It looked like a bad throw and a bad decision as Prescott appeared to have enough space in front of him to run for a first down, but chose to try to hit Jarwin and threw it well short.
Following the game, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan quickly left the stadium, avoiding making postgame comments.