CHARLOTTE — As a home underdog against the Dallas Cowboys, the Carolina Panthers needed to take advantage of every opportunity that came their way.
In Sunday's 33-10 loss, the Panthers got few breaks and, if anything, hampered their own efforts with self-inflicted wounds.
That was particularly true in the first half when Carolina's penalties extended two Dallas scoring drives. Late in the fourth quarter, another penalty allowed Dallas to kill the game clock.
When asked about the nine penalties for 80 yards, and the end of the first half sequence in particular, Panthers head coach Frank Reich kept coming back to the same word.
"It was brutal," Reich said. "I mean, it was brutal."
Reich said that not only were they helping the Cowboys score, they were taking away their own chance at a two-minute drive before the half, a double deficiency.
"That was a bad sequence," Reich said. "That was a really bad sequence."
Even more frustrating, four of the six defensive penalties on the Panthers came on third down and allowed Dallas to maintain possession.
In the first half, that first drive, aided by penalties, ended in a 30-yard field goal that gave the Cowboys a 10-0 lead.
With Dallas facing 2nd-and-13 from its own 49, Panthers cornerback Donte Jackson was flagged for a 28-yard pass interference penalty on Cowboys' wide receiver CeeDee Lamb that gave Dallas a first down at the Carolina 23.
Then, just three plays later, with the Cowboys facing 3rd-and-19 from the Panthers 32, Carolina safety Xavier Woods was penalized for a personal foul for a horse-collar tackle at the end of Dallas wide receiver Brandin Cooks' eight-yard reception that was well short of the first down. The penalty gave the Cowboys a first down at the Panthers 12.
Four plays later, Brandon Aubrey's field goal capped a 12-play, 69-yard, 5:09 drive with 11:01 left in the first half.
The second first-half drive, aided by Panthers' mistakes, ended in a 5-yard Dak Prescott-to-CeeDee Lamb touchdown pass that gave the Cowboys a 17-3 lead with 24 seconds left in the first half.
With the Cowboys facing 3rd-and-10 from the Carolina 41, outside linebacker Amaré Barno was flagged for hitting Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott as he slid at the end of a three-yard scramble. The penalty gave Dallas a first down at the Panthers 23.
Three plays later, defensive end DeShawn Williams was penalized for unnecessary roughness when he shoved Dallas receiver KaVontae Turpin after Lamb had been tackled six yards short of a first down at the Carolina 19. And three plays after that, Prescott hit Lamb for the TD pass that capped an 11-play, 60-yard drive that lasted 1:32.
"The penalties, the self-infected wounds on us that's on us," Williams said. "It's not nobody else, or out of frustration, it's just you've just got to play smarter ball," Williams said. "You take those penalties away from them, and who knows what happens. We've just got to play smarter ball on defense."
The defensive penalties were uncharacteristic for this year's team, as Carolina's defense had been penalized 16 times in the first nine games before being flagged six times overall in Sunday's loss.
"It's very frustrating, and it's unlike us," Woods said. "It's just unlike us. We haven't had those problems all year."
Even in the closing minutes, when Carolina desperately needed the ball back, a defensive penalty allowed Dallas to end the game.
With backup Cowboys quarterback Cooper Rush subbing in, a 5-yard holding penalty on Jackson negated a stop on third-and-15 from the Dallas 33. The penalty helped Dallas run out the clock in the victory that dropped the Panthers' record to 1-9 on the season.
"We've got to keep pressing forward and keep getting better," Williams said. "In this game, nobody's going to feel sorry for you. As a defense, we just have to focus on us."
Woods echoed those sentiments.
"We've just got to keep fighting," he said. "And we have to come back in here again tomorrow and try again."
View all the action from the Panthers' game against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 11.