It wasn’t a flashy day in the stat column for Cam Newton on Thursday but nonetheless, he got the job done and got a chance to break out his dance moves once again. The Panthers quarterback threw for just 183-yards on 16 completions, but as always made some critical third down connections that allowed Carolina to get the chains moving and get into scoring position. The offense experienced some struggles once they got into opposing territory and in the red zone but luckily points weren’t too hard to come by. Newton’s day on the ground was solid as he rushed for 45-yards and scored once in the third quarter and busted a move as only he could do.
It wasn’t a terribly productive day for the backfield either. Jonathan Stewart rushed 21 times for 68-yards on some tough runs and like Newton, was able to do enough to keep the ball moving when they needed it. Fullback Mike Tolbert also rushed for 16-yards on a modest four carries and did his part in the blocking game. Even on an “average” day for the Carolina backfield, they extended their 100-yard rushing streak to 22 games; an underrated yet significant streak undoubtedly.
With Newton throwing for just 183-yards, the receiving corps didn’t see a lot to go around but one Panthers receiver actually had an impressive day through the air. Jerricho Cotchery led the way with five catches for 73-yards making a number of crucial catches as he has become known for this season. Rookie Devin Funchess caught just two passes for 19-yards but saw his number of snaps increase dramatically as he lined up on 83% of the offensive plays in this one, according to the Black and Blue Review. Philly Brown was inactive yet again and Ted Ginn was held without a catch but Cotchery’s day was more than sufficient for the offense here.
With Cotchery logging almost half of Newton’s yardage, Greg Olsen was the recipient of the other half. The tight end caught five passes for 70-yards and was the usual go-to guy for his quarterback in this one. He led the team, as per usual, with nine targets and like Cotchery, was vital in moving the chains and giving Newton a reliable target. Olsen had a few passes that just missed him which could have given him more to show for in the stat column but it was still a solid day for the veteran tight end.
The game ball on offensive for this matchup belongs to the offensive line which was led by left tackle Michael Oher’s tremendous performance against one of the league’s premiere pass rushers. Oher was tasked with matching up with former Panther Greg Hardy and dominated him all game long as he kept him off of his quarterback and didn’t allow him to record a single defensive stat. The line as a whole gave up just one sack on the day and gave Newton time in the pocket and the running game room to run, throughout this contest.
The defensive line had a relatively quiet day on paper but certainly showed up and contributed heavily to the Panthers’ defense as they held the Cowboys’ offense to just 31-yards on the ground. Kony Ealy recorded his fifth sack in five games as he continues to show out this season and Kawann Short also made his presence felt in what has been a breakout season for him. It was another overall solid effort from the front line on Thanksgiving.
The story of the day came from this group in what was one of the best performances to date, with contributions coming from all over the field. Luke Kuechly was the unquestioned MVP of this game with his two interception day which included a pick six and another leaping, downfield interception on the very next play of the game. The first time that feat has been accomplished since 1997 and Kuechly’s first trip to the end zone in his NFL career. The defensive star also logged seven tackles and two pass deflections to go with his career day in coverage. Linebacking mate Thomas Davis had a monster day as well. He recorded five tackles, one sack, one pass deflection and two quarterback hits as a driving force for this defense. Even AJ Klein had a solid day notching five tackles, one for a loss to make this an all-around remarkable game for this unit.
The secondary wouldn’t let the linebackers have all the fun in this one as they too, had one of their best games of the season and held the Cowboys’ passing game to just 179-yards through the air. Kurt Coleman picked off a pass and took it to the house on the first series of the day tying him for the league lead in interceptions with five on the year and continuing his incredible year. And Josh Norman shut down one of the league’s best receiving threats in Dez Bryant, dominating the matchup and allowing just one catch for six yards while covering him. As a whole, Bryant had just two catches for 28-yards on the day as Carolina took him almost entirely out of this matchup. Colin Jones got his second start as the nickel corner and had an excellent day as well logging six total tackles and making key plays from all over the field.
The Carolina kicking team had a stellar day as well with Graham Gano providing quite the scoring punch and knocking in four of five field goal attempts. The Panthers’ kicker connected from 49, 43, 25 and 50-yards and his only miss came on a blocked attempt late in the fourth quarter. With the offense stalling in enemy territory, Gano did his job and helped put points on the board for the team.