Cowboys Grades vs. the Panthers
Rush offense: D — Ezekiel Elliott finished the game with a respectable 15 carries for 69 yards. But that came after an awful first half when he rushed seven times 18 yards. The Cowboys were behind the chains because of penalties, sacks and negative plays. So they really couldn’t get much going. What’s also true is the Cowboys need Elliott to spectacular not respectable. He is the only difference-making threat on offense and when he can’t get it going, they have nothing else.
Pass offense: F — What more can be said about a passing game that has now thrown for under 200 yards in seven of the last nine games dating back to last season. Dak Prescott completed 19 of 29 passes for 170 yards against the Panthers. He was sacked six times. So while he showed signs of life in the second half when he completed 13 of 19 passes for 124 yards, it ultimately wasn’t good enough. Prescott was not accurate for much of the night and no one stepped up outside to make plays.
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Pass defense: C — The Cowboys didn’t give up a lot in the passing game. Newton passed for less than 200 yards but he was able make key third down conversions to keep the chain moving and control the ball. Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence had a great game with a sack, seven tackles and three tackles for losses. Defensive tackle Maliek Collins also had a sack. But Jeff Heath dropped a possible game-turning interception.
Rush defense: D — The rush defense couldn’t control Cam Newton early and then was gashed by the running backs late. After Newton had seven rushes for 64 yards in the first half, C.J. Anderson and Christian McCaffrey started finding creases in the running game. Linebacker Sean Lee did not have a good game. He was credited with just four tackles. He probably missed at least that many.
Special teams: F — The Cowboys gave up to much in kickoff and punt returns. That was bad enough. But this is about the decision to release Dan Bailey, one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history, and go with the unknown Brett Maher, who had never kicked a field goal in the NFL. He still hasn’t have a miss from 47 yards out that followed with the Panthers’ game-decided touchdown drive.
Coaching: F — The Cowboys spent the entire offseason overhauling the offense. It looked the same or worse than last season that was with Ezekiel Elliott. There was no imagination in the play calling and no big plays down the field. The Cowboys must get this fixed and fast or owner Jerry Jones might make the second mid-season coaching change of his career.