Cowboys vs. Panthers results and observations: Dallas is rolling as DaRon Bland matches the NFL single-season pick-six record.

Cowboys vs. Panthers results and observations: Dallas is rolling as DaRon Bland matches the NFL single-season pick-six record.

The Dallas Cowboys’ game against the Carolina Panthers, who had the poorest record in the NFL going into Week 11, isn’t exactly exciting or newsworthy. When he announced during an impromptu press conference that bleeded into the Sunday 1 p.m. ET kickoff of the game that Pro Football Hall of Famer and former Dallas Cowboys head coach Jimmy Johnson would be inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor at the Cowboys regular-season home finale against the Detroit Lions in Week 17, team owner and general manager Jerry Jones indirectly hinted as much. It would have been simple for the Cowboys to come into the game unfocused, but that didn’t happen: Dallas improved to 7-3 with a convincing 33-10 win from start to finish.

After an inconsistent first half in which quarterback Dak Prescott passed for touchdowns to Pro Bowl wide receiver Cee Dee Lamb (5 yards) and second-round rookie tight end Luke Schoonmaker (18 yards), the Cowboys led 17-3 at the break. Lamb became the first player in Cowboys history to have three seasons of 1,000 or more receiving yards in their first four years of play. He finished with 38 receiving yards and a touchdown on six receptions. Prescott completed the game with 25 of 39 passing yards, two touchdown passes, and 189 passing yards.

But in the end, Dallas’ dominance was really fueled by their defense. Cornerback DaRon Bland, a second-year, fifth-round selection, scored a 30-yard interception return touchdown with the first overall choice in 2023. Jonathan Mingo was the intended recipient of a historic throw from Bryce Young, which tied him for the most in an NFL season. The score was increased to 30-10 as well.

Bland added, “I told my teammates I was going to go get one today,” in the postgame interview with Erin Andrews of Fox Sports on Sunday. “I was actually in the end zone and had no idea what to do.” At that moment, I was not celebrating. It worked well. I sensed my colleagues giving me the bum rush.”

The 24-year-old attributed his ability to continue collecting interceptions and converting them into touchdowns to his time spent playing wide receiver in high school.

“I have to go back to my high school days playing wide receiver and just having that mindset to go get the ball,” Bland said. “Seeing the ball once a receiver hits his break, and I see the ball in the air, I just go get it.” 

One of the best pass-rushers in the NFL, Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons entered Week 11 with 53 quarterback pressures, second most in the league. However, in the Cowboys’ 49-17 victory over the New York Giants in Week 10, Parsons displayed an unusual performance: he did not record a sack or a tackle in a game for the first time in 2023. Along with breaking franchise records on Sunday, Parsons became the first player in team history to record double-digit sacks in each of his first three seasons with his three sacks, giving him 10.5 in 2023. With two third-down sacks to terminate Carolina’s first two drives, Parsons made history with a half-sack with 12:52 left in the fourth quarter as Dallas won 33-10 on the road in Week 11.  

The Cowboys outgained the Panthers 311–187 and prevailed 2–0 in the turnover differential. Dallas’s 33-10 triumph also makes it their sixth consecutive NFL-best victory by 20 points or more in 2023. No other club had more than three going into Week 11.

Why the Cowboys prevailed

There was more tension around Bland and Parsons, two of Dallas’s defensive players, as they attempted to break records than there was over the winner of Sunday’s match. With about five minutes remaining in the game, Prescott was allowed to leave the field, which speaks something about how lopsided the Cowboys’ Week 11 triumph was. Dallas had seven sacks of Young, which is tied for the sixth-highest total in an NFL game this year. The difference on Sunday was that the Cowboys didn’t give the youngster enough time to regularly go through his progressions.

Why the Panthers did not win

Seven of their ten offensive plays resulted in a turnover (one pick-six and one lost fumble) or a punt (five times). That kind of offensive ineptitude will never be sufficient to win in the NFL.

pivotal moment

With 13:58 remaining in the game, Pro Bowl running back Tony Pollard scored a 21-yard rushing touchdown to bring the score to 24-10. Actually losing 17–10 going into the fourth quarter, Pollard’s Marshawn Lynch-esque TD rush, in which he dragged the pile the last 7 or 8 yards for the score, turned the game around. It seemed like a knife to Carolina’s heart to outscore their little offense by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, and they didn’t score in the last fifteen minutes of the game. Additionally, it was Pollard’s first touchdown since Week 1, when the Cowboys defeated the New York Giants 40-0 in the NFL’s first “Sunday Night Football” telecast.

The game’s gameplay

The play of the game could only have gone to Bland, who made a diving interception, somersaulted, and got back up to finish a 30-yard pick-six to equal the single-season record for the NFL. He was stalking his target like Jaws, and when Young saw an opening, he sprang forward to grab the football.

What follows

The Cowboys, who are now 7-3, will play the 4-7 Washington Commanders on Thanksgiving in Week 12 at AT&T Stadium. In Week 12, the 1-9 Panthers will travel to Nashville to take on the 3-7 Tennessee Titans.

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