CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Dallas Cowboys traveled to Bank of America Stadium on Sunday afternoon to take on the Carolina Panthers and took down the worst team in the NFL behind a big second-half push from the defense.
Despite holding just a 17-10 lead going into the fourth quarter, a Tony Pollard touchdown and a defensive takeover led to a Bryce Young pick-six to DaRon Bland and a Bryce Young fumble on the ensuing possession that led to another Dallas score to push the final line to 33-10.
There was a lot to take away from Dallas' win in Carolina. Here is this week's version of 5 Takes, presented by Take 5 Oil Change.
- DaRon Bland is an All-Pro. He also deserves to be in the DPOY conversation.
The young corner did it again. In just the tenth game this season, second-year cornerback DaRon Bland picked off his sixth pass of the year and accounted for his fourth pick-six of the season, with the latter tying an NFL record. When targeted, Bland rarely gives up receptions, much less big plays, as he continues to dominate in his role as boundary corner in 2023. His performance so far this season has him firmly in All-Pro conversation. And I know that cornerbacks need a lot of love to get Defensive Player of the Year, but his play warrants a conversation of his placement in the mix.
- The pass rush unit continues to dominate lower competition.
That's what they should be doing, right? Well, that was once again the case on Sunday as the defensive line unit took advantage of injuries up front for Carolina and got to Bryce Young multiple times in the pocket. Six sacks later – including three from Micah Parsons – and the Cowboys can put another impressive pass rush effort in the win column.
- Jourdan Lewis has played his best football in the last few weeks.
Coming off of his injury from last year earlier in the season without any training camp action, a lot of attention was put on how Jourdan Lewis would perform when he returned to the field. Despite a couple of games where he struggled to handle physical receivers such as Keenan Allen, Lewis has found a stride in the last few weeks covering Cooper Kupp, Sterling Shepard and now Adam Thielen. Although Thielen got hot in the third quarter, it was generated by moving him around and away from Lewis at times.
- The offensive line is finding a groove.
Mike McCarthy and the offensive linemen themselves preached that having time together would fix all of their early season problems, and that is starting to manifest now that they build chemistry as a unit. For the second week in a row, Dak Prescott wasn't sacked after being sacked 22 times in the previous seven games. In the run game, the big guys up front helped pave lanes for Tony Pollard as the integration of him and Rico Dowdle increases in importance.
- Despite an early emphasis, the run game never found consistency.
There seemed to be an early emphasis on getting touches for Tony Pollard – who has been struggling to find any momentum in recent weeks along with the run game as a whole. Despite Pollard's first three carries going for 34 yards, his next eight carries went for just six yards as getting him out in space, running him downhill or even getting creative with the wildcat formation couldn't yield Pollard production. However, a physical 21-yard run into the end zone that saw Pollard fight off the entire state of North Carolina ended up creating a more positive effort. There still isn't a scary presence coming out of the backfield through ten games, but Pollard found a stride late to build on.