Dallas Cowboys’ D Puts NFC On Notice After Blowout SNF Win Over Giants

The Dallas Cowboys are bonafide contenders in the NFC — that much we know. That has already been the case over the past two seasons, as the Cowboys boasted one of the NFL’s top-ranked offenses.

Mike McCarthy has led his team to back-to-back 12-win seasons, with the Cowboys averaging just under 30 points per game over the span. 

With Dak Prescott under center, this has been one of the league’s most efficient and effective offenses. But if the Cowboys are going to take the next step as a team, it will be because of their defense.

Turnover Machine

The Cowboys led the NFL in takeaways during the 2021 and 2022 seasons. They are poised to do that again after forcing two turnovers (and a blocked kick) on Sunday against the New York Giants. But it appears the Cowboys have taken the next step on defense. The defense was utterly dominant in Week 1. 

Going into the fourth quarter, the Giants had just 21 net passing yards on 27 dropbacks. Daniel Jones was sacked seven times, and the passing offense could never get anything going. Jones was constantly harassed in the backfield, and the Giants could not create chunk plays through the air. 

The Giants finished the game without scoring a point and averaged just 2.6 yards per play. Jones averaged just 3.7 yards per passing attempt with a total of 57 net passing yards on 35 dropbacks on the night.

The Giants finished the game with 174 yards of offense, the fewest of any team in Week 1. It was a dominant defensive performance by Dallas from the start of the game until its final seconds. The Cowboys forced three turnovers, and the talent difference on the field couldn’t have been more noticeable. 

Parsons’ Star Power

The biggest reason for the defensive turnaround for the Cowboys over the last few years? None other than Micah Parsons. Parsons finished second in the NFL in Defensive Player of the Year voting a year ago, but he has somehow found a way to level his game up even more. One of his best traits is the ability to have an impact on the game, even when he’s not bringing down the quarterback. 

According to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, Parsons was doubled on half of his rushes in the first half against the Giants. He recorded four pressures in the first half and made multiple plays on third down to help get the defense off the field.

Parsons finished the game with three tackles, two quarterback hits, one sack and one tackle for a loss. Coming into Week 1, he was the favorite to win the 2023 Defensive Player of the Year award, and nothing he did in Week 1 should change that. In fact, everything he did showed just how dominant he can be in any single game.

Supporting Cast Playing Its Part

Don’t make the mistake of thinking the defense is only great because of Parsons. The addition of Stephon Gilmore has already paid dividends. He intercepted Jones early in the second quarter. Gilmore’s ability to cover wide receivers and tight ends make him a perfect fit in Dan Quinn’s defense. Gilmore had back-to-back pass deflections in the third quarter to get the Cowboys off the field. Gilmore turns 33 in a few days, but he is still among the best cornerbacks in the NFL.

Speaking of Quinn, he might be the best defensive coordinator in the NFL. He’s had several opportunities to become a head coach over the last few years but has opted to stay in Dallas. That looks like a wise decision, and his defense is only improving. With another successful season, Quinn will have his pick of coaching jobs again next offseason. 

The Cowboys are loaded on defense. They’ve got Pro Bowl talents at every level of the defense. The only part that leaves a bit to be desired is their run defense, but the hope is that 2023 first-round pick DT Mazi Smith can help improve that unit as the season progresses. But there is no doubt that the Cowboys have put the NFL on notice after their dominant defensive play against the Giants in primetime.

The Cowboys have a championship-caliber defense that might be good enough to finally get this team over the hump. 

Marcus Mosher is an NFL writer with a decade of experience in podcasting and writing for various NFL websites, including Bleacher Report, Pro Football Focus and The Athletic. He is currently a managing editor at USA Today Sports Media Group and the host of the Locked On Cowboys Podcast. Marcus has been working full-time covering the NFL since 2015 and works as a betting expert for You can follow him at @Marcus_Mosher.

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