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Dominating 3rd quarter lifts Cowboys over Panthers 36-28

The Cowboys scored 20 unanswered points in the third quarter after being down in the first half.
Credit: AP
Dallas Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs (7), Nahshon Wright (25) and others celebrate Diggs intercepting a Carolina Panthers' Sam Darnold pass in the second half of an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

ARLINGTON, Texas — This is the best Dallas Cowboys football team since... when?

2016? 2014? 2007? Could the answer possibly even be 1995?

The Cowboys ran the Carolina Panthers out of the building in the second half on Sunday, turning Panthers miscues into points, and showing that they have a complete football team that is among the class of the NFC.

Trevon Diggs led the charge, intercepting a pair of passes and pushing his league-leading total to five picks in the first four games of the season. He's the first Cowboy to record five interceptions in the first four games of a season since Chuck Howley did it in 1968, and just the 17th player to do so in league history.

After two first-half Panthers touchdown drives, the Cowboys defense cranked up the pressure, and forced a punt, a long missed field goal, another punt, and then Diggs' two interceptions over the next five possessions. And in the meantime, the Dallas offense was cookin'.

The third quarter was all Dallas, with three touchdown drives to seize control of the football game. Ezekiel Elliott ran roughshod over the Panthers, totaling 143 yards on 20 carries, and notching his fourth rushing touchdown of the season. Dak Prescott spread the ball around to five different receiving targets, throwing four touchdown passes to four different Cowboys.

A Cowboys offense that entered the game leading the NFL in first downs per game, with 27.3, tallied another 24 in this game, running up over 400 yards of offense once again.

Dallas made it far more interesting at the end of the game than they ever needed to, allowing Carolina to score two late touchdowns to make it a one score game. 

And their decision to "player manage" 24-year-old Trevon Diggs with a 15-point lead was quite puzzling, considering they didn't do the same with their $40 million quarterback Dak Prescott.

But a win is a win. And three straight wins is three straight wins. Dallas is 3-1, and in control in the NFC East, just four games into the season.