Lost in all the talk about the putrid offense from last Sunday is the fact that this defense limited the Panthers to just 16 points. With weapons like Cam Newton, Christian McCaffrey, Torrey Smith, and Devin Funchess, this offense has the ability to put up points in many different ways, so containing this unit was a positive.
Perhaps the two worst parts of the defensive performance were all of Sean Lee’s missed tackles and the injury to Randy Gregory. Even then, the secondary was everywhere, rarely giving up any big passes as Newton was limited to just 6.2 yards per attempt. Kavon Frazier, starting at safety in place of Xavier Woods, led the team in tackles with eight.
And then there’s the pass rush, which starred DeMarcus Lawrence. Tank picked up right where he left off last year, racking up seven total tackles, three of them for a loss, and sacked Newton in addition to recovering a crucial fumble that stopped the Panthers from scoring a touchdown. Maliek Collins, playing for the first time after missing most of the offseason and preseason with an injury, recorded a sack, as well as Jaylon Smith.
The bottom line is that this unit, which has previously been a bit of a weakness at times, looked like the best part of this team even without Woods, David Irving, and effectively Gregory or Lee. In fact, the Cowboys had the fifth-best defense in the NFL in the first week.