Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy couldn't have dreamed up a better performance for his defense than what occurred on the field at MetLife Stadium on "Sunday Night Football" in the Silver and Blue's of the New York Giants.
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. Gilmore, the 2019 NFL Defensive Player, was acquired in a trade with the Indianapolis Colts that called for Dallas to send Indy a fifth-round pick in exchange for the soon-to-be 33-year-old corner (his birthday is September 19). One game into his Cowboys tenure, he made his presence felt with a lunging interception of Giants quarterback Daniel Jones on a pass intended Giants Pro Bowl tight end Darren Waller. He finished the night with a passer rating allowed in coverage of 6.3 with Jones throwing five incompletions in eight attempts Gilmore's way, including the interception.
That play didn't surprise McCarthy, and it even led him to compare Gilmore to another Defensive Player of the Year cornerback he has coached: Pro Football Hall of Famer Charles Woodson.
"Stephon looked like that at practice every day," McCarthy said Sunday night. "He's an incredible route reader, just the pattern of concepts and understanding of the [route]stems. The way he sees the game is exceptional. I look back at Charles Woodson and some of those guys that had that special trait, and he definitely has that."
McCarthy, who spent 13 seasons as the Packers head coach from 2006-2018, coached Woodson for seven seasons from 2006-2012, the defensive back's age-30 to age-36 seasons. He captured the 2009 NFL Defensive Player of the Year award, and the Packers won Super Bowl XLV the following season in 2010. Gilmore's serene manner during games is a critical factor in his play reminding his head coach of Woodson.
"I just try to stay like that because it's not easy to play," Gilmore said of his stoic demeanor after practice Wednesday in the lead-up to the Cowboys Week 1 domination. "You just have to be even-keeled. I just try to focus on the things that matter and that's film study and preparation. I let my play do the talking."
If Sunday night was a sign of things to come, there will be a lot of talking about Gilmore's on-field performance in 2023.