NFL 2015 Thanksgiving preview: Carolina at Dallas

November 26, 2015

The NFL enters Week 12 with a tripleheader on Thanksgiving Day. In the showcase game, the Carolina Panthers, who improved to 10-0 for the first time in franchise history with a 44-16 win over Washington, will take on Tony Romo and the revitalized Dallas Cowboys (3-7).

“It feels great to be 10-0,” said Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who tied a franchise record with five touchdowns in the win over Washington. “It was a great team win. But we have a short week and we’ve got to get ready for Dallas.”

The Panthers will join the 2011 Green Bay Packers (10-0) as the only teams in the Super Bowl era to play on Thanksgiving Day with a 10-0 record or better. Carolina and the New England Patriots, who defeated Buffalo 20-13 on Monday night, are both 10-0, marking just the fourth time in NFL history there have been multiple 10-0 teams in a season (1934, 1990, 2009). Dating back to last season, the Panthers have won 14 consecutive regular-season games, the longest active streak in the NFL.

Entering 2015, 15 teams started a season 10-0 during the Super Bowl era. Of those 15 clubs, all 15 qualified for the playoffs, nine advanced to the Super Bowl and six of those teams won the Super Bowl.

The Panthers, who finished the 2014 season with a 7-8-1 record, are the first team in the Super Bowl era to start 10-0 in the season following a losing campaign.

“The biggest thing we have to understand is that we have to maintain our focus,” said Panthers head coach Ron Rivera about being 10-0. “Teams are going to come in and give us their best shot so we have to respond by playing our best.”

Newton was named the NFC's Offensive Player of the Week after he threw a career-high five touchdown passes, tying the single-game team record.  Teammate and cornerback Bene Benwikere was a nominee for NFC Defensive Player of the Week after he had a sack, forced a fumble, recovered a fumble, and had five tackles.

In a season of firsts for the franchise, the Panthers will play their first Thanksgiving Day game.

"It's exciting for our players to be able to compete on Thanksgiving Day," said Rivera, who played on Thanksgiving Day in 1992 as a linebacker for the Chicago Bears. "Every season presents challenges, regardless of when the games are played. We have to take advantage of those opportunities.”

Newton, who has 102 passing touchdowns and 39 rushing touchdowns, is the only player in NFL history with at least 100 passing touchdowns and 25 rushing touchdowns in his first five seasons.

“It’s an honor to get to play on Thanksgiving,” said Newton.

Carolina has the third ranked defense (322.8 yards per game) in the NFC. Linebacker Thomas Davis is only player in NFL with at least three sacks and three interceptions this season. He also leads the team with 69 tackles. Safety Kurt Coleman and cornerback Josh Norman are tied for first in the NFC with four interceptions this season. Star Linebacker Luke Kuechly, who is second on the team with 68 tackles this season, had 15 tackles and a fumble recovery in his only career matchup against the Cowboys.

Since 1966, the Cowboys have been a Thanksgiving fixture, having hosted the annual contest for 47 of the last 49 years. In 1975 and 1977, the St. Louis Cardinals played host to the game in place of Dallas. In 1978, the game returned to Dallas for good.

The Cowboys are 29-17-1 on Thanksgiving and have won six of their past nine on the holiday. Dallas quarterback Tony Romo, who returned last week to lead the Cowboys to a 24-14 win at Miami, is 4-0 in his career against Carolina and 6-2 as the starter on Thanksgiving.

Romo, who is 3-0 as the starting quarterback this season, connected with wide receiver Dez Bryant on the pair’s 50th career touchdown pass last week, surpassing Pro Football Hall of Famers Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin for the most by a QB-WR duo in team history.

“Romo gives everybody some extra juice,” said Bryant about Romo, who returned to the starting lineup following an injury he sustained in Week 2. “His play just shows how much he really means to the team. We all know who our leader is. Tony is outstanding. He just makes good things happen.”

Romo passed for 227 yards and two touchdowns against the Dolphins, while linebacker Rolando McClain had a pick six and three tackles.

“We just have to get back to work,” said Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett about preparing for a quick turnaround. “We’ll go to work because that’s what we do. We love playing football, we love coaching football. These guys love playing with each other. We are excited about the opportunity we have. We have a game on Thursday. The Carolina Panthers are coming to town. They are a darn good football team.”

For his career, Romo has passed for 2,232 yards and 18 touchdowns on Thanksgiving, both the most all-time on the holiday.

Tight end Jason Witten, who will play in his 13th Thanksgiving Day game this week, is currently the all-time leader on Thanksgiving with 66 catches. His 740 receiving yards trail only Herman Moore (834) for the most all-time on Thanksgiving.

Witten also ranks second all-time amongst tight ends with 994 receptions and needs six catches on Thursday to join Tony Gonzalez (1,325) as the only tight ends in league annals with 1,000 career receptions.



CB Charles Tillman (knee)

WR Corey Brown (shoulder)

DT Dwan Edwards (ankle), WR Ted Ginn (knee), LS J.J. Jansen (head), G Andrew Norwell (hamstring)  


CB Morris Claiborne (hamstring, ankle), DE Ryan Russell (abdomen)

WR Dez Bryant (foot, knee), WR Brice Butler (hamstring), CB Brandon Carr (shoulder), S Barry Church (ankle), DT Nick Hayden (ankle), S Jeff Heath (shoulder), LB Anthony Hitchens (ankle), CB Byron Jones (ankle), DE Demarcus Lawrence (back), LB Rolando McClain (foot), RB Darren McFadden (groin), QB Tony Romo (back, left shoulder), LB Kyle Wilber (toe)

By Staff of and news services

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