The 2018 Dallas Cowboys looked much like the 2017 Cowboys during their opening game against the Carolina Panthers. Unfortunately for Cowboys fans, that is not a good thing. The Panthers dominated Dallas for most of the night en route to a 0-0 victory.
Cam Newton had his way with the Dallas defense on the ground during much of the first half, rushing for nearly 60 yards and the game’s first touchdown before the break. Penalties and playing from behind the chains were common themes for Dak Prescott and the Dallas offense. Poor field position also contributed to the offense not running a play in Panther territory until midway through the third quarter.
When the Cowboys did have opportunities in the first half they were unable to capitalize on them. Blake Jarwin was running down the field wide open on a third-down play, only to have Prescott woefully underthrow him resulting in an incompletion. A 10-0 halftime deficit actually seemed like a win for the Cowboys. The scoreboard in no way illustrated the dominance exuded by the Panthers in the first half.
The second half began with the Dallas defense putting the clamps on Newton and the Panthers for two straight drives. Prescott and the offense actually showed some signs of life in the third quarter, moving the ball into Carolina territory. However, a La’el Collins holding penalty killed any momentum, forcing the team to settle for a field goal attempt.
Brett Maher was already under enough pressure replacing Dan Bailey but being tasked with a 47 yarder, down 10-0, on the road, in the second half, is not easy. That being said, he missed the kick. Newton and Christian McCaffrey would have the Panthers into Dallas territory in three plays. A touchdown would shortly follow. However, a botched snap on the point after attempt kept the Panther lead at 16-0.
Dallas was able to carry over some of the success from the previous drive as they mounted their best drive of the game. Ezekiel Elliott finally found some consistent running room on his way to punching in a touchdown. Prescott would add the two-point conversion, cutting the Panther lead to 16-8, a one-possession game.
The defense would again rise to the occasion on the next Panther possession. DeMarcus Lawrence was able to sack Newton on 3rd and long. The Cowboys would get the ball back with a chance to tie the game late.
The drive started out strong for Dak and the Cowboys, quickly moving into Panthers territory. But in what was the theme of the night, penalties and pressure on Prescott would be the drive’s undoing. Facing a 3rd and 23 and subsequently a 4th and 10, the Cowboys would be unable to convert, turning the ball over the to the Panthers on downs with a little over 2 minutes left in the game.
The stout Cowboys defense would prove up to the task yet again, forcing the Panthers into a three and out. Prescott and the offense would have one last shot to tie the game with just under two minutes, one timeout and starting at their own 20-yard line. However, Dallas wouldn’t even gain a single first down. Prescott fumbled on third and short and Carolina recovered.
The Panthers would win by a final score of 16-8. Dallas starts the 2018 season 0-1 with the division rival New York Giants traveling to Big D next week in what will be a huge early-season showdown of two 0-1 teams.
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