Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers was akin to a late season SEC game against an overmatched non-conference opponent.
There was so little doubt about the outcome that the Dallas Cowboys and FOX sports used the game to allow Jerry Jones to announce that he was inducting former coach Jimmy Johnson in the Ring of Honor, even though the game was on the road at Bank of America Stadium.
It didn’t help that the Panthers (1-9) began working a silent count in practice this week because they expected to have trouble hearing in their own house with Cowboys fans taking over the stadium.
The methodical and ho-hum nature of the game was reflected in the score.
A 17-3 halftime lead became a 30-10 blowout early in the fourth quarter when 21-yard yard touchdown run by Tony Pollard was followed by a 30-yard interception return for a touchdown by record-tying cornerback DeRon Bland.
It was Bland’s fourth pick-6 of the season, which is a franchise record for a season and ties three other players for an NFL all-time high in a season. His four also ties for the Cowboys career record.
The Cowboys upped their record to 7-3 and continued their surge since a 42-10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers last month with their fourth win in their last five games.
Most importantly, they took care of business against the Panthers when their focus could have been challenged because of Carolina’s losing record.
The Cowboys host the Washington Commanders at AT&T Stadium Thursday on Thanksgiving Day. The Commanders lost Sunday to the Giants, 31-19. The same Giants the Cowboys beat last week, 49-17.
What we learned in the Dallas Cowboys 33-10 ho-hum victory against the Carolina Panthers:
Cowboys get run game going against Panthers
Quarterback Dak Prescott and receiver CeeDee Lamb finally cooled off.
Or maybe, the Cowboys cooled themselves off.
Prescott had a pedestrian day by his standards, completing 25 of 38 for 189 yards and two touchdowns.
It ended a streak of three consecutive 300-yard games and four straight games with a quarterback rating of over 100.
Lamb saw a streak of three straight games of 10 catches and 150 yards. He had six catches for 38 yards a touchdown against the Panthers.
The Cowboys know what they have in the passing attack.
The Cowboys used the game to get Pollard and the running attack going.
Pollard had his best game of the season with 12 carries for 61 yards. He had a 21-yard touchdown run and another 22-yard scamper.
It was important part of the offense that needs improvement heading into crucial games down the stretch in November and December.
Parsons back in the sack column, Bland sets record
After recording no sacks and no tackles against the New York Giants last week, even Stevie Wonder could see big game from edge rusher Micah Parsons was coming against the Panthers.
Parsons didn’t waste any time getting after rookie quarterback Bryce Young with two sacks in the first quarter.
The Cowboys had three sacks in the first half. Parsons was limited in the second half after vomiting twice on the sideline.
With the Cowboys up 17-3 at halftime, the defense gave up a 17-play, 70-yard drive in the third quarter. Young hit tight end Tommy Tremble for a 4-yard score.
But that was it.
Parsons added another sack, giving him 10.5 for the season. It is the third straight year he has recorded double digit sacks.
The Cowboys finished the game with six sacks.
And then Bland stole the show with his pick-6. He leads the Cowboys and its tied for the NFL lead with six interceptions in 2023.
Two games in four days and three games in 12 days
The Panthers game was the beginning of a tough schedule stretch for the Cowboys that has them playing two games in four days and three games in 12 days.
They host the Commanders on Thanksgiving Day and then another game against the Seattle Seahawks the following Thursday on Nov. 30.
The coaching staff began game planning for the Commanders on the plane ride to Carolina.
McCarthy has prepared his players from the schedule challenge by limiting their practices the past couple weeks with just one full practice on Thursday and conducting walk-throughs on the other days.