The Dallas Cowboys make headlines no matter what they do thanks to their status as Planet Earth's most and as the owners of the moniker "America's Team." No player on the Cowboys is as unafraid to make said headlines as two-time first-team All-Pro linebacker Micah Parsons. Back in training camp, he declared the 2023 Dallas defense could be "up there with ."
On "Sunday Night Football" against the NFC East rival New York Giants at MetLife Stadium, Parsons and the rest of the Silver and Blue's defense walked the walk, dropping the boom on the G-Men in a 40-0 smackdown victory, the largest shutout win in Cowboys history. Five players -- Parsons (one sack), defensive tackle Osa Odighizuwa (two sacks), defensive end Dorance Armstrong (two sacks), defensive end Chauncey Golston (one sack), and defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence (one sack) -- combined for seven sacks of Giants quarterback Daniel Jones, who signed a four-year, $160 million extension with New York this offseason after helping lead them to the NFC divisional round in 2022.
Dallas' three takeaways -- a pick-six by cornerback DaRon Bland, a forced fumble by cornerback Trevon Diggs, and an interception by new Cowboys cornerback Stephon Gilmore -- were also evenly distributed throughout the Cowboys secondary.
"I believe [we played like one of those championship defenses," Parsons said Sunday night after helping the Cowboys thrash the Giants 40-0. "The turnovers, the relentlessness, the effort by all 11, even the guys that came in in the fourth quarter and helped finish the shutout. All across the board, I think everyone is locked in and committed to this team."
The level of defensive ferocity displayed Sunday night made Parsons quite comfortable with firmly planting the Cowboys' flag down for the title of the NFL's top defense.
"I think we're making a statement that we've been trying to make," Parsons said. "We're the best defense in the National Football League. We stayed on them. We didn't let them breathe. We smothered them."
Parsons' description of Sunday night as a smothering is accurate. Jones couldn't breathe all night as he finished with 104 yards on 13-of-24 passing with two interceptions and the lowest passer rating of his five-year career, 32.4. He absorbed those seven aforementioned sacks while being under pressure on nearly two-thirds of his dropbacks, a trend that carried over from 2022. After going up against this unrelenting pass-rush unit all offseason, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, whose wins in 11 straight starts against the Giants tied Cowboys Pro Football Hall of Famer Roger Staubach for the longest such streak against the G-Men, was thrilled to see a different quarterback have to deal with his team's pedal-to-the-metal defensive teammates.
"I think I've talked about it all spring to training camp, understanding the pass rush that we were going against at practice and just watching that come alive against another team, another quarterback was exciting," Prescott said Sunday night.
Last season, Parsons' 90 quarterback pressures co-led the NFL alongside 2022 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa, and the Cowboys defense as a unit generated the highest team quarterback pressure rate in the NFL, 43.3%. The Giants offensive line surrendered the highest quarterback pressure rate in the entire NFL last season (43.4%), Both of those metrics bore out on Sunday night as the Dallas defense generated pressure on 62.2% of the Giants' dropbacks (23 of 37), according the NFL's Next Gen Stats, for the fourth-highest team pressure rate in any NFL game since 2019.
The Cowboys generated pressure on 23 of 37 dropbacks (62.2%), the 4th-highest pressure rate in a game since 2019.— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) September 11, 2023
Dallas had 8 defenders generate multiple pressures, including 4 with at least 5 pressures.#DALvsNYG | #DallasCowboys pic.twitter.com/AUI9wFTyt0
After the entire defensive front seemingly chipped in to provide Jones a living nightmare in primetime, three-time Pro Bowl defensive end and locker room leader DeMarcus Lawrence became comfortable with Parsons' declarative statement that the Cowboys are the league's best when it comes to shutting down opposing offenses going up in bold letters for everyone to see.
"That's for y'all to write," Lawrence said Sunday night when asked if Dallas is the NFL's best defense. "Only thing we do is go out there and play the game. If y'all feel like a statement was made, go ahead and put that mug on the front page, bold letters. I definitely feel like we did our job to the maximum of our ability. And I feel like we can still learn and get better from it. A lot of guys didn't have a preseason game [on this team]. For us to come out and run around and hit like that, I feel we did a good job."
One game into Year 3 under defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, one of the architects of the Seahawks' legendary "Legion of Boom" defense of the 2010's, head coach Mike McCarthy believes the type of level the Cowboys' defense reached in Week 1 is sustainable.
"I think that's who we are," McCarthy said Sunday night. "I clearly feel we've taken another step. You could see that in training camp. I would say you look at the way teams are going to try to play us. You look at their first series. They're going to try to pound the ball and challenge our run defense over and over again and try to soften up the pass rush. The pass rush was relentless tonight. We gave up contain a couple of times early, but after that, clearly was in total control of the game."
The total control the Cowboys displayed didn't take them by surprise. In fact, they saw it coming.
"I saw it before anybody," Parsons said. "I said I can't wait to get to New York. I already knew it was coming. When preparation meets execution, I don't think there's anyone that can beat it."
Well, Dallas' next opponent, quarterback Aaron Rodgers, has beaten them time and time again. Rodgers is now with the New York Jets after amassing an 8-2 record against the Silver and Blue as a Green Bay Packer. That total includes a perfect 3-0 record at the Week 2 venue, the Cowboys' AT&T Stadium. Rodgers and the GOAT Tom Brady are the only quarterbacks with a 3-0 or better road record against Dallas.
"I came out [of the game] healthy," Parsons said. "I feel good, and I get to go against the great Aaron Rodgers next week."
No matter who the Cowboys face, to Parsons' point, if they can rack up seven or more sacks, force multiple takeaways, and generate pressure on nearly two-thirds of their opponents dropbacks on a regular basis, Dallas may find themselves in Las Vegas for the Super Bowl at the end of the season.
"Absolutely. That's the goal," Lawrence said when asked about defense winning being the driving force in winning a Super Bowl. "That's the end goal for sure. We want to make sure we keep doing our job, keep stacking it one day and one game at a time. When we look up, we'll be there [the Super Bowl]."