CHARLOTTE, N.C. - What matters is the Cowboys are 7-3.
Let's just start right there. In a game like this, that is what matters the most. The Dallas Cowboys have played 10 football games this season, and they'll head into this short Thanksgiving week with a 7-3 record, which is probably right about where we all had this team pegged before the start of the season.
Because for all of you that live and die with the big-picture approach, that's the biggest takeaway from the Cowboys' 33-10 win over the Panthers on Sunday.
That is what matters more than anything. It doesn't matter that the Panthers have just one victory this year. Doesn't matter that Bryce Young really doesn't appear to be ready at all to lead an NFL team and doesn't have a lot of help around him. Doesn't matter the Cowboys clearly had more fans and turned Bank of America Stadium into AT&T Stadium East. Doesn't matter the Cowboys had somewhat of a slower start and led by only one score in the third quarter.
What matters is the Cowboys found yet another way to take care of business on the "road" and win this game by 23 points, fully dominating a team that is used to being dominated.
I'll give the Panthers a little credit in the fact their defense isn't bad. They're scrappy in pass coverage and provide pretty good pressure. The running game was effective at times and Adam Thielen still knows how to get open and make catches.
But that was about it from the Panthers, who just couldn't sustain the fight for 60 minutes. Give the Cowboys credit for that as they continued to play sound enough on both sides. When it was time to make a play on offense before halftime, they did and grabbed a two-touchdown lead. And then on defense, DaRon Bland did it again, picking off yet another pass for a touchdown, tying the NFL record with four this season alone.
Micah Parsons did his thing, recording 2.5 sacks - needless to say he wasn't frustrated after the game. He not only talked to the media for about 10 minutes but walked out still chatting with reporters. Clearly, the mood is different when the Lion is owning the jungle.
Honestly, some might call this a sloppy win, but I don't know how. The Cowboys were about 10-11 point favorites and won by 23 away from home. That's impressive against any team in the NFL.
But I found a few other takeaways that prove to me this team continues to show growth.
Luke Schoonmaker needed a big play under his belt and he got it early with a touchdown pass from Dak Prescott. As a second-round pick, expectations are always a bit high, and so far there haven't been a ton of "wow" plays. He nearly made one in Philadelphia but was ruled short of the goal line. He also had a dropped pass last week. But against the Panthers, it was nice to see him come up with a touchdown catch down the field. Another player who needed a big game was Tony Pollard, and this was arguably one of his best of the season. Pollard hadn't scored a touchdown since Week 1 and it showed, considering he ran over two or three defenders to get over the goal line. Pollard still hasn't had that dominating game from start to finish, but I felt like he ran better in this game than we've seen in a while - perhaps all season. Sticking with that theme, Terence Steele has seemed to play his best football here in the last couple of games. This is just my first look from the press box and without watching the game again. I could be wrong about Steele playing better, but it seemed like he was at his best, especially on the memorable play in which he blocked two defenders for Tony Pollard and actually lost his helmet as well. I truly think Steele is going to be just fine - not only this year but for several years to come. I think he's a really good player who is figuring out how to play through this first season after the ACL surgery. Don't look now but Michael Gallup seems to be getting a little better each week. Ever since that critical drop in Philly, Gallup has made some nice catches, including one at the end of that Eagles game. But then he had the big touchdown last week and a few more chain-moving receptions Sunday in Carolina. No, I'm not saying rush to the waiver wire in your fantasy league and pick him up, but considering the type of season CeeDee Lamb is having, and it also seems as if Brandin Cooks is making strides as well, Gallup will continue to get chances to make plays like he's done here the last few games. And one more, this one on Parsons. It's one thing to be frustrated because you didn't have the game you expected. It's another to take that frustration and apply it to the field, both in practice during the week and then at the game on Sunday. Parsons clearly didn't like having zero tackles and no sacks against the Giants. So he comes out this week and gets 2.5 sacks, setting the tone early in the game. And to think, he did that AFTER throwing up a couple of times on the sideline because of an energy drink he took for the first time that didn't agree with him. Then again ... maybe it did? He had 2.5 sacks and was flying all over the field. Parsons said it felt like his heart was beating out of his chest. I wonder if Bryce Young felt the same way.
All in all, I classify this one has a good win, just like all of them are, especially at this point in the season. Like I mentioned with a few players who seem to be growing, you can say the same for this team as a whole.
This was pretty much the same game they had back in Week 3 against the Cardinals when they weren't prepared to play and didn't handle the adversity that was facing them. That wasn't the case this time around as the Cowboys made sure they weren't going to let the Panthers jump out to any lead, and closed the door in the third quarter when it was starting to get close.
That's the sign of a good team - one that keeps lower-level teams in their place. And that's what happened on Sunday, or is it already Wednesday? That's the thing about these short weeks. There is no time to dwell on it. Sure, it was important to get to 7-3, but by the time the plane lands in Dallas, the bigger focus will be finding a way to get to 8-3.