ARLINGTON, Texas (Jonathan Jones | The Charlotte Observer) -- A week after the Panthers leaned on Cam Newton for five passing touchdowns, they used the defense to get the job done on Thanksgiving.
The Carolina Panthers’ defense turned Tony Romo over three times, including two interceptions returned for touchdowns, and they topped the Dallas Cowboys 33-14 in AT&T Stadium on Thursday night.
First it was safety Kurt Coleman with a 36-yard interception return for a touchdown. Then linebacker Luke Kuechly got in on the action with a 32-yard pick-six. Kuechly came back on the next Cowboys’ offensive possession and picked off Romo again.
Carolina’s Thanksgiving halftime lead swelled to 20, and the rest was gravy.
It was enough to draw the praise, albeit conditional, of Panthers coach Ron Rivera.
“I really like the way we are playing on the defensive side of the football,” he said, “sans the last few minutes of this one.”
Newton only attempted 27 passes, completing 16 of them for 183 as the Panthers spent most of the second half bleeding out the clock. Jonathan Stewart’s 68 rushing yards helped the Panthers eclipse the 100-rushing-yard mark for a league-leading 22 consecutive games.
But it was the Panthers’ defense dominated the game. Not only did it pick off Romo three times – and knock him out of the game early in the fourth quarter – but it limited the Cowboys’ rushing attack to just 31 yards one week after holding Washington to 14 yards.
Now the 11-0 Panthers get to enjoy a minibye with a four-day weekend. Panthers coach Ron Rivera will give the players Monday off and they’ll practice again on Tuesday in preparation for New Orleans.
Three who mattered
They said it
“It wasn't about stopping one guy but I thought our guys did a nice job.” – Rivera, on how well his team contained former teammate Greg Hardy (no sacks, no tackles).
“Very disrespectful.” – Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis, on talk of the Panthers being underdogs against Dallas.
“It's nice to be in our position. It really is.” – Rivera, on the franchise-best 11-0 start.