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The Lowdown: Defense rules the day


First down: A dominant defensive effort keyed the Panthers to a 16-8 victory over the Cowboys in their season opener. The offense played well as well but didn't take advantage of some scoring chances early, allowing Dallas to hang around despite a lopsided stat sheet. That made it a little too interesting late. When the Panthers scored two plays into the fourth quarter to lead 16-0, they had doubled Dallas up in yardage 284-142, even after the Cowboys started moving the ball in the third quarter..

Second down: When Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott scrambled into Panthers territory with less than 10 minutes left in the third quarter, it set up Dallas' first snap of the game on that side of midfield. Carolina already had 25 snaps on the Cowboys' side of the field. The Panthers built a 10-0 halftime lead behind a defense that allowed Dallas just 60 first-half yards. The lead likely would have been bigger if not for a rare Christian McCaffrey lost fumble on an early march deep into the red zone.

Third down: Carolina's first score came on a 4-yard run by quarterback Cam Newton out of the zone read, a score early in the second quarter that keyed a 10-0 halftime lead. Any questions about whether Newton's legs would be utilized by first-year offensive coordinator Norv Turner were quickly answered. Newton had five rushes for 59 yards at the end of the first quarter, though he actually finished with 58 rushing yards. Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott had five rushes for 8 yards after one quarter. He eventually picked up the pace and finished with 69 yards.

Fourth down: The Cowboys began threatening in the third quarter but didn't break through, missing a chance to make it a one-score game when Brett Maher, their first-year kicker,missed a 47-yard field goal. The Panthers steamed down the field after it, all but putting it away when fullback Alex Armah crashed in from the 1 to make it 16-0. Carolina and Tampa Bay were the Week 1 winners in the NFC South; the Buccaneers stunned the Saints in New Orleans earlier Sunday. The Panthers will visit a Falcons team next Sunday coming off a season-opening loss at the Eagles on Thursday.