ARLINGTON, Tex. — For all the specific things that went wrong for the Panthers on Sunday, there was one in particular that stood out, and galled them.
While there were many reasons they lost 36-28 to Dallas, the whopping 245 rushing yards Sunday was at the top of the list.
For head coach Matt Rhule, that was even worse than the fact they didn't have a sack, despite leading the league in that category too.
When Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott runs 20 times for 143 yards, and they add an extra 100-plus on the ground, it's that kind of day.
"I think honestly, the tale of the day was more Zeke," Rhule said.
Rhule went through the particulars, saying the Panthers loaded the box to stop it, leaving their cornerbacks exposed (and a few times in the third quarter it showed). But they didn't tackle well, or get off blocks, and against a good running team, that's what happens.
"We got a little out of character at times," Rhule added.
The fact the Panthers entered the game allowing 45.0 yards per game on the ground made it that much more surprising.
Safety Jeremy Chinn said communication (they were missing a couple of starters in the secondary) was an issue, but so was the more fundamental issue of tackling.
But once the Cowboys established that they were willing and able to run, everything changed, and the Panthers weren't able to pressure Dak Prescott.
"When the offense can run the ball like that, the playbook opens up," Chinn said. "We've got to stop the run, that's where defense starts. To be a good defense, it starts with stopping the run."
It was the sixth-highest opponent total in franchise history, and the most since Washington ran for 248 in 2019. (The record was the 337 the Rams racked up in 2001).
But as bad as it was, it was also out of character, and the Panthers took some degree of comfort in that.
"Alarming? We're not going to let one game define us, you feel me?" defensive end Brian Burns said. "I feel like we're going to get back to how we win. I'm not going to let it define us, but it is embarrassing. It's a disappointment to me, I take that personally.
"That 245 yards isn't pretty. But I'm not going to let it define us as a defense, to be quite honest."
View photos from the field during Carolina's Week 4 game at Dallas.