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Mike Leslie's Take: McCarthy with another game management blunder, leading to Panthers touchdown

Cowboys elect to decline a Panthers penalty, leading to a conversion and eventual score
Credit: AP
Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy stands on the sideline during the Pro Football Hall of Fame NFL preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021, in Canton, Ohio. The Steelers won 16-3. (AP Photo/David Richard)

ARLINGTON, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys have played three and a half football games in the 2021 season, and head coach Mike McCarthy has found ways to make questionable decisions in each of them.

Today, with the Panthers facing the possibility of 2nd & a mile, McCarthy puzzlingly declined a Carolina penalty, and it eventually led to Panthers points. We'll have to wait until postgame to hear his reasoning, but we don't need to wait until postgame to say it was a dumb decision.

Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory has been tremendous to start the season, creating havoc even when he doesn't hit the quarterback, drawing multiple penalties against offensive linemen. During today's second quarter, Gregory drew a facemask penalty against the Panthers Cam Erving.  It was 2nd & 12 at the Carolina 23, prior to the penalty. The 15-yard facemask would have been applied as a half-the-distance penalty, setting Carolina back to about their own 12-yard line, setting up 2nd & 23.

Instead, McCarthy declined the penalty, choosing to let his defense play out a 3rd & 12.

Carolina converted, with a 13-yard completion to Robby Anderson. And they proceeded to rip off a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to take a 14-13 lead.

Take the penalty next time, Mike.