CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Vonn Bell knew who was coming to town Sunday.
The Carolina Panthers safety did not seem overly impressed.
Following Thursday’s practice, Bell brushed aside any pre-game reference related to the challenges that awaited the defensive backs against the Dallas Cowboys at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday.
“Why say that (it’ll be a challenge)?” he said.
Well, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott entered Sunday leading the NFL with a 129.4 rating since Week 8, compiling 1,082 yards and 11 touchdowns.
“Everyone in the league has an explosive offense,” he said.
That’s mostly true, but Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb has been dominant the past month, becoming the first player to record three consecutive 10-reception, 150-yard performances.
“Uh-huh,” Bell said, shrugging. “Great challenge … great opportunity.
“Life in the big city.”
Life in Charlotte on Sunday proved a bit tough on the Panthers, suffering a 33-10 defeat which clinched their sixth consecutive losing season. Vonn contributed seven tackles (six solo).
— Jeff Hawkins (@WriterHawkins) November 18, 2023
Panthers’ Offense Trending Down in NFL Big Plays
The Panthers’ and Cowboys’ offenses have been trending in opposite directions this season, especially in the past month. While the Panthers, who are engaged in play-calling musical chairs, entered Sunday ranked 29th in scoring and 30th in total offense, the Cowboys were second in total points scored and third in total yards.
Prescott and Lamb remain one of the NFL’s top big-play connections.
Prescott entered Sunday with three consecutive 300-yard, three-TD performances, matching an NFL record shared by Patrick Mahomes, Peyton Manning and Steve Young. Meanwhile, Lamb was linked with Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson as the only receiver to collect at least 10 receptions in four straight outings.
On Sunday, however, the Panthers’ defensive backs held Prescott to 189 yards passing and Lamb to 38 receiving yards.
Following Sunday’s loss, safety Xavier Woods helped explain how the Panthers’ secondary contained the Cowboys’ big-play connection.
“Putting body on body,” Woods said. “We knew they’re very good if we were playing zone. You have body-on-body and, especially when Prescott is out of the pocket, it makes things a little tougher and makes the windows a little tighter.”
— Jeff Hawkins (@WriterHawkins) November 20, 2023
Panthers Coach Frank Reich Reclaims Play-Calling Reigns
Panthers coach Frank Reich created national attention last week when he announced he would reclaim the play-calling following a three-game audition by offensive coordinator Thomas Brown.
While Prescott has sizzled the past month, Panthers starting QB Bryce Young continues to struggle. The No. 1 overall draft pick’s development continues to stagnate. Under Reich, Young compiled seven TD passes, including Sunday’s 4-yarder to tight end Tommy Tremble, and five interceptions, including a pick-six by Cowboys’ DaRon Bland.
Young had two TDs and three interceptions during the three-game experiment with Brown.
Wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. was limited with an elbow injury earlier in the practice week, but started against the Cowboys and did not record a reception. With social media blowing up regarding Reich reclaiming the play-calling duties, Chark said he remained off social media, but had not received “any different vibes from anybody,” Chark said Thursday. “It doesn’t matter how (the play-calling) goes. No, it doesn’t really change anything.”
Reich claimed responsibility for the Panthers’ offense generating just 187 total yards of offense against the Cowboys’ defense, which sacked Young seven times.
“As a coach, that’s on me,” Reich said.
— Jeff Hawkins (@WriterHawkins) November 17, 2023