The attitude under Quinn is clear: don’t get hit on the scoreboard to support the powerful offensive effort.
LANDOVER, Maryland – The names of the Dallas Cowboys offense come out of their mouths like a who is who of the NFL.
Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott; Amari Cooper; Tyron Smith; Zack Martin; CeeDee Lamb; Michael Gallup. The top five players have been Pro Bowlers at various times. Lamb is destined to be one, maybe even this year. Gallup has a 1,000-yard season under its belt.
When the 2021 season began, the names on the defense of the Cowboys they were not renowned. Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, a two-time Pro Bowler, was the most recognizable. Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch made the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2018. Linebacker Micah Parsons, the No. 12 overall pick in the 2021 draft, was as promising as anything else in September.
But something has happened in the last three months and especially in the victory Sunday 27-20 against Washington.
They have stopped being a defense without relevance, to being a feared one.
Parsons should have the award Defensive Rookie of the Year Guaranteed right now, and it is also candidate for defensive player of the year alongside any of the biggest names in the NFL, from Aaron Donald to TJ Watt to Myles Garrett.
Cornerback Trevon Diggs leads the NFL in interceptions, and although he didn’t have one Sunday, he kept Terry McLaurin without a catch before Washington’s top receiver left the game with a concussion in the second half.
“If our offense goes out and scores 50 points, that’s great, but if they go out and get zero, we have to keep zero,” Parsons said. “That is the expectation. No matter what they do, we have to account for what we do. If we can win a game on defense, that’s what we have to do. I think we’ve all been embracing that standard and approach every week and We have been in the position of ‘we hit and we don’t get hit’. I think we should continue at that. “
None of this seemed imaginable after a season in which the Cowboys allowed a franchise record of points (473) and spent much of the season giving up big plays and lots of yards.
In 13 games a year ago with Mike Nolan as coordinator, the Cowboys allowed 400 points and 48 touchdowns. They had just five interceptions and 24 sacks.
Through 13 games this season with Dan Quinn as coordinator, the Cowboys have allowed 287 points and 32 touchdowns. They have 21 interceptions and 31 sacks.
When the transformation from one year to Mike mccarthAnd after Sunday’s win, he sarcastically said thank you for the trip back in time.
“We definitely have a great defense,” he said. “I think not only were all the changes made, but you can see the entire structure. You could see her in the spring and watch her build on the training ground. It’s a great group. Love, energy. Now that everyone is back, it’s great to see him. “
With the return of defensive tackle Neville Gallimore from injured reserve due to an elbow injury, the Cowboys were complete on defense for the first time all season.
Lawrence was playing just his third game of the season after sustaining a broken foot in practice after the first game. He had a quarterback sack off Taylor Heinicke to end the third quarter.
Parsons had two more sacks, giving him 12 on the season and poised to break the league’s rookie mark of 14, set by Jevon Kearse in 1999. His first sack triggered a fumble that defensive end Dorance Armstrong returned 37 yards for a touchdown and gave the lead 18-0 in the first quarter.
Only Julius Peppers (13), Reggie White (13) and Leslie O’Neal (12.5) had more sacks in the first 13 career games than Parsons since sacks became an official statistic in 1982. He has recorded one in six straight games, tying the third longest streak for a rookie.
“We are feeding each other,” Parsons said.
Defensive end Randy Gregory, who played for the first time in a month due to a calf injury, had the play that set the tempo with an interception in the first quarter. Four plays later, the Cowboys scored.
In the fourth quarter, Gregory stopped what looked like an epic collapse for the Cowboys, who led 24-0 at halftime and 27-8 after three quarters, with a sack by quarterback Kyle Allen on a forced fumble that he was recovered by Jayron Kearse with 2:24 to play.
The fumble recovery by Kearse, nephew of the man Parsons follows for the rookie sack record, was the Cowboys’ 27th fumble recovery of the season. The last time they had that many in the first 13 games was in 1999.
The Cowboys defense has scored five times this season, which is the most in the NFL. (By the way, their seven non-offensive touchdowns are three more than any other team in the league, according to ESPN Stats & Info).
Prescott is glad to have this kind of defense. He has the lowest QBR of his career (9.9) with two interceptions and 211 yards on 22 of 39 passes with four sacks. Before Sunday, the Cowboys were 0-9 when Prescott had a QBR under 25.
“E the way they practice, their communication, their brotherhood; yes, this is a tough group, ”stressed Prescott. “I practice against them every day. To know them, to know how proud they are of their work, to know that they are led by Coach Quinn, they are playing outstandingly. “