CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Dak Prescott felt the main goal coming into Sunday’s game was not to overlook the NFL’s worst team.
He and DaRon Bland made sure the Cowboys didn’t.
Prescott threw for 189 yards and two touchdowns, Bland tied an NFL record with his fourth pick-6 of the season and Dallas, a 10 1/2-point favorite, routed the Carolina Panthers 33-10 Sunday for their fourth win in the last five games.
“It was about focusing on where we were and, if you look on paper, a lesser opponent,” Prescott said. “… So we had to get going fast and not take them lightly and keep the focus high. And, yeah, we got the job done.”
Bland made a diving interception of Bryce Young near the sideline early in the fourth quarter, got up and raced 30 yards for a touchdown for a 30-10 lead. He tied a record shared by Philadelphia’s Eric Allen (1993), Kansas City’s Jim Kearney (1972) and Houston’s Ken Houston (1971).
“When I got up, I was like, ‘I gotta go. I gotta get a spot in the end zone again,’” Bland said with a wide smile.
He called this his best touchdown return yet because it was his most athletic, having to elude players en route to the end zone.
Bland is tied for second on the team in touchdowns, something that doesn’t often happen for a cornerback in the NFL, particularly on a team with an offense as explosive as the Cowboys.
“That’s crazy when you think about it,” Bland said. “I’m going to try to break the record now.”
Tony Pollard ran for 61 yards and a touchdown, and CeeDee Lamb found the end zone again for his fifth score of the season for Dallas (7-3) in front of a predominantly pro-Cowboys crowd.
Young finished 16 of 29 for 123 yards, and the No. 1 draft pick threw his third pick-6 in the last three games. He also fumbled. The Panthers (1-9) are assured their sixth straight losing season since David Tepper took over as owner in 2018.
“Not getting the results you want is frustrating,” Panthers coach Frank Reich said. “So I’m frustrated most of all for (our coaches and players), but I’m frustrated for our fans as well. … You want change to happen overnight, but sometimes it takes longer than you want.
“But you have to keep your head down and be strong-willed and keep your vision every day and be able to fight your way through the tough times.”
The Cowboys sacked Young seven times and limited the Panthers to 187 yards and 13 first downs in the first game since Reich resumed control of play-calling duties.
“We felt confident we’d get a pass rush going,” said Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy of facing the Panthers, who have allowed 39 sacks in 10 games.
The Cowboys have averaged 33.6 points over the last five games, and Prescott entered Sunday with three straight games with at least 300 yards passing and three TDs. Dallas didn’t need his aerial exploits, as Pollard ran the ball well and the defense did the rest against a lackluster Carolina offense.
The final two minutes of the first half served was a microcosm of Carolina’s mistake-plagued season.
After Carolina cut Dallas’ lead to 10-3, Eddy Pineiro sent the ensuing kickoff out of bounds, giving the Cowboys the ball at their own 40.
Carolina’s defense had two chances to get off the field, but the Panthers were twice flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct resulting in 30 penalty yards and two Dallas first downs. The first came when Amare Barno hit a sliding Prescott several yards short of the first down marker on a third down run. A few plays later, DeShawn Williams pushed Dallas’ KaVontae Turpin in the back after an apparent third down stop.
Prescott made the Panthers pay with a 5-yard TD pass in the corner of the end zone to Lamb, giving Dallas a 17-3 lead heading into the locker room.
The Panthers got back into the game in the third quarter after Young converted three straight fourth downs, two of those on completions to Adam Thielen. The drive culminated in a 4-yard TD pass from Young to Tommy Tremble, only the third Carolina offensive touchdown in the last four games.
But Dallas answered immediately with a eight-play, 75-yard drive capped by a 21-yard touchdown burst from Pollard — his first score since Week 1 — to make it a 14-point game early in the fourth quarter.
“I’m happy for my man,” Lamb said of his Pollard’s long-awaited TD run. “I told him we were going to spring him. The O-line did a great job of course making way for him and he did a great job of hitting the hole. It’s good to see his explosiveness back in action.”
No injuries reported.
Cowboys: Host Washington on Thanksgiving day.
Panthers: Visit Tennessee on Sunday.
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