NOTES: Parsons adds TD to growing resume

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Brandon Wade/AP/Shutterstock (13578376k) Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons (11) recovers a Chicago Bears fumble during the second half of an NFL football game, in Arlington, Texas. Parsons would run the ball for a touchdown on the play. Dallas won 49-29 Bears Cowboys Football, Arlington, United States – 30 Oct 2022

NOTES: Parsons adds TD to growing resume

For the second time this season, the Cowboys defense found its way into the end zone.

With the Cowboys leading 35-23 in the third quarter but the Bears trying to keep it close, Micah Parsons made the defensive play of the game – a 36-yard fumble return for a touchdown, where he made two cutbacks on the way to the end zone.

“I definitely deserve a rep (on offense) now,” Parsons said with a smile after the win on Sunday. “(The coaches) can’t say they haven’t seen it in a game. So, hopefully, I get throw in on a goal line package or a red zone package. But hey, who knows.”

Bears quarterback Justin Fields hit running back David Montgomery over the middle on a short pass. Montgomery, who turned upfield and looked to have a nice gain, was hit by Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch and the ball hit the turf, bouncing towards the sideline.

Parsons flew in and jumped on the ball, recovering it at the Chicago 36.

“Those are the types of plays that you have to get,” Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said. “Make your moment. Just decide, and that was another good example of that.”

With Parsons now on the ground with the ball, Fields decided to leap over the linebacker instead of touching him down at that spot. Once Fields had cleared him, Parsons, who never heard a whistle, rose from the turf and took off running toward the end zone as several of the Bears’ offensive players slowed up on the play.

“I landed on the ball and popped up, ready to celebrate with the team,” Parsons said about the recovery. “I thought I was down, but everyone was like, ‘go, go, go.’ So, I just went, went, went.”

It is the first touchdown of Parsons’ career, which has now spanned 25 games.

Parsons, who would take it the distance to push the Cowboys lead 19 late in the third, joins Demarcus Lawrence as the only Cowboys defenders to score this season. Lawrence returned a Matthew Stafford fumble 19 yards for a TD in the Cowboys’ win over the Rams in Week 5.

“The ball was alive (on Sunday),” Lawrence said. “I feel like we could have had more turnovers. But it is something we can hone in on, pursue and get better at over the bye week.”

Career blast for Anger
With the Cowboys trying to put away the Bears in the fourth quarter, Bryan Anger did his part to help make that happen.

Called upon in the final minutes, Anger booted the longest punt of his now 11-year career – an 83-yard blast that stretched from the Cowboys’ 17 to the Bears’ end zone. It is the longest by any punter in the NFL this season and the second longest in Cowboys’ history to Rod Widby’s 84-yard blast in the 1968 season.

Anger’s previous long, a 73-yard punt, came while playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars during 2012, his first season in the NFL.

“It was a great punt,” Cowboys special teams coordinator John Fassel said. “It was a bomb from the side. I thought it might hit the scoreboard again. I know C.J. (Goodwin) and Kelvin (Joseph) were tracking down, and if you can down that inside the five and get a 78-yard gross net (punt), that would be pretty good. But it was good for Bryan to get a good, big shot off, especially since they rushed us – they brought all eight. So, it was a real professional rep under pressure.”

Anger, who has a career average of 46.4 yards, has punted 35 times for Dallas this season, averaging 48.5 yards per blast in 2022. That is good for 11th in the NFL, tied with Cleveland’s Corey Bojorquez and Chicago’s Tristen Gill, and just behind Michael Dickson (48.8-yard average) as teams approach the midpoint of the season.

Bye week comes at right time
The Cowboys’ bye week could not have come at a better time.

With 13 players listed on the Week 8 injury report, and several others already on injured reserve, the team heads into the NFL’s ninth week banged up and in need of rest.

“If you look over time, your medical report’s always long, it seems this week,” Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said. “You’ve played eight games, and a lot of guys are nicked up, so (the bye) could not have come at a better time for us.”

Going into Sunday’s game against Chicago, the Cowboys were already without Jourdan Lewis, who was placed on IR after the Lions’ game, as well as Ezekiel Elliott, Sam Williams, Noah Brown, and Malik Hooker.

During the game, the Cowboys lost Connor McGovern, Jayron Kearse, Donovan Wilson, Anthony Brown, and Anthony Barr. All returned but Barr, who was replaced by rookie Damone Clark.

“It will be good to get healthy,” McCarthy said. “The defense, the number of plays they played yesterday, and the stress that they were under, had some guys go down. So, this will be a good week for us to recover.”

LB Clark makes pro debut
Cowboys rookie linebacker Damone Clark made his professional debut against the Bears.

Clark, who had spinal fusion surgery on March 24, was expected by many to miss the entire season after being drafted in the fifth round by Dallas.

Not Dallas.

A speedy recovery had Clark ready to dip his toe into the NFL waters with a few special teams snaps on Sunday. Instead, he was thrown into the deep end when starting linebacker Anthony Barr went down with an injury midway through the game.

“Damone played a lot more than we would have thought in his first (game) due to Anthony’s injury, but I thought he really answered that challenge,” Quinn said. “I knew he was ready to go, but this is a guy that hadn’t played in eight games and tackled.”

Clark stepped in and played 40 downs at linebacker while also getting 19 snaps on special teams.

He finished with six tackles, just two short of the team lead of eight recorded by Leighton Vander Esch, Donovan Wilson, Trevon Diggs, and Jayron Kearse.

“It was good for him,” McCarthy said about Clark. “He got in there on a few special teams (plays) and felt good, and what not, then all of a sudden, they called his name. Was it clean? No, it wasn’t clean, but he knows that. We thought he did a lot of good things, and it was really good for him to get that experience.”

Third down improvement
The Cowboys’ offense has been downright horrible on third downs this season.

That was until Sunday’s win over the Bears.

Over the first seven games, the Cowboys were successful on just over 31% 28 of 89 – of third downs.

Against Chicago, the Cowboys moved the chains on nine of 11 third downs, a whopping 81% success rate.

“We were in favorable down and distances,” McCarthy said. “So, our first and second down operation was obviously better. So, that was the first part.

“The second thing is that it is just refreshing to see the players have success when they put extra time on whatever the focus is. We have spent a lot of extra time the last month on third down. The execution was clearly better.”

The Cowboys were in third down and six yards or shorter on six different occasions and were successful on five of them. Which means they were successful on four of five third downs longer than seven yards.

McCarthy building legacy
Hard to believe that Las Vegas oddsmakers listed Mike McCarthy as the odds-on favorite to be the first head coach fired this season.

If you exclude McCarthy’s first full season in Dallas because of a Global pandemic, where he had to implement his culture, teaching methods, and playbook through zoom meetings, then the Cowboys coach is proving he is the right guy for the job.

Since 2021, when the NFL returned to normalcy, the Cowboys are 18-7 in the regular season. No other team has 18 wins, and only three have 17 wins – Buffalo, Kansas City, and Tennessee.

Not bad for a head coach on the hot seat.

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