Red-hot Dak Prescott exposes first vulnerabilities in Panthers’ defense

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Through the first three weeks of the 2021 season, the Panthers’ defense had allowed just 30 points (only the Broncos had allowed fewer with 26), a league-low 573 total yards, a league-low 3.8 yards per play, and they were tied with the Broncos allowing a league-low 4.3 net yards per attempt. That they had played the Jets, Saints, and Texans made Phil Snow’s defense a bit of a mirage, as you want to see a defense go up against a great offense before you want to crown them.

As it turned out, when Carolina’s defense faced the Cowboys on Sunday, the mirage status might be in play for now. The Panthers have shown a ton of progress in all areas of their defense, but in a

Prescott started out with this 18-yard touchdown to tight end Blake Jarwin with 14:09 left in the second quarter. Jarwin wan a slant underneath as receiver Noah Brown pushed upfield, and safety Jeremy Chinn left too much free space over the middle.

Prescott threw three touchdown passes in the third quarter, matching Tony Romo’s efforts in 2007. Prescott started off with a 35-yard touchdown pass to Amari Cooper.

Panthers cornerback C.J. Henderson, who the team just traded for to replace injured first-round cornerback Jaycee Horn, didn’t do a horrible job here — he fell off at the last second. The problem is, when you’re defending Amari Cooper, you have to defend the entire route.

Then, Prescott hit tight end Dalton Schultz with a six-yard touchdown pass with 7:21 left in the third quarter, and let’s just say that if you’re a defensive coordinator, you never want to see this much empty space around an opposing tight end in the red zone.

Prescott finished off his big day with this 23-yarder to receiver Cedrick Wilson Jr., and I’m not quite sure what cornerback A.J. Bouye (No. 24) is doing here.

This isn’t to say that the Panthers are a paper tiger on defense — they’re a young group, putting it all together, and there are a lot of moving parts in what Phil Snow calls. It can take a minute for everybody to get on the same page, and if you’re facing the combination of Dak Prescott, Dak Prescott’s targets, and offensive coordinator Kellen Moore’s playbook, you have to be on point more often than this. No doubt, they’ll bring the lessons they’ve learned when they face the Eagles next Sunday.