Mandatory Credit: Photo by Brandon Wade/AP/Shutterstock (13435805cm) Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons (11) is seen during the second half of an NFL football game against the Washington Commanders, in Arlington, Texas. Dallas won 25-10 Commanders Cowboys Football, Arlington, United States – 02 Oct 2022
Micah Parsons wasn’t happy with the performance of the defense on Sunday.
He also wasn’t shy about saying so.
“It is something I am very upset about,” he said. “It has to change.”
The do-everything linebacker called out the unit’s effort and play after the Cowboys allowed Green Bay to score 17 points in the fourth quarter and overtime in Sunday’s loss.
“We just have to be accountable,” Parsons said. “We have to hold our gaps. We have to come downhill and stop it. It is going to keep happening until we stop it. … We can rush as much as we want, but until we put this flame out of this running the ball stuff, we are never going to be as good as we need to be. Period. We have to get better.”
Parsons, who played 61 snaps, and the defense allowed the duo of Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon to gash them repeatedly in the run game.
“I would take any of (our) guys any day of the week when it comes to physicality,” Parsons said. “But, in terms of being accountable, staying and knowing you are doing your job, that is what it is. People think this is an ‘I’ game because certain people splash. But this is a ‘we’ game. It’s not just one person. If he doesn’t get the call, it’s on us. If he doesn’t stunt, whether it’s on him, it’s (really) on us. We have to depend on everybody to do their job. If one person is not doing their job, everything is in shambles.”
Whether it was between the tackles or on the outside, the Packers hammered the Dallas run defense for 207 yards on 39 carries. A whopping 5.3 yards per carry average.
Even down 14 in the fourth quarter, the Packers continued to run the ball, knowing the Cowboys couldn’t stop them.
During that final quarter and close to seven minutes of overtime, Green Bay ran the ball on 12 of 20 offensive snaps. They picked up 81 yards, including 14 in overtime, to help set up the winning field goal.
That is back-to-back games where the Cowboys’ defense allowed over 100 yards rushing, something Parsons expressed after Sunday’s effort at Lambeau Field, and his head coach backed him up on Monday afternoon.
“I don’t know what the hell you would want us to be talking about in the locker room,” Mike McCarthy said. “We definitely weren’t in there patting each other on the back. There’s a ton of red ass. A ton of disappointment. A lot of anger. And that points to the commitment and the desire to win. The connection. So, there is a lot said between a number of people, and I love that. Conflict is good. That’s how you resolve it.”
Prescott has work to do
If the Cowboys want to make the playoffs, much less win games in the postseason, then the play of Dak Prescott must become more consistent.
“There is a balancing act of playing smart and aggressive football at the same time,” Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore said. “Dak has traditionally done a lot of good things in that world and certainly something we have to be aware of. Check ourselves.”
After busting out and playing like a franchise quarterback in a win over the Bears, Prescott followed it up with a clunker this past Sunday in Green Bay.
That kind of inconsistent play must be concerning, even if some of the stats don’t point in that direction. But those stats only live on the surface.
Specifically, completion percentage and touchdown throws, where he threw five touchdowns while completing 66% of his throws in the two games.
But dive a little deeper, and the hole in his game is glaring – accuracy.
First, the Cowboys are the fifth-best team in the NFL in drops, with just seven this season. So, if you hit CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, Noah Brown, Dalton Schultz, and others in the hands with a good pass, they are likely to make the grab.
What the Cowboys pass catchers are not good at is gaining yards after the catch. They have gained just 757 yards after the catch, good for 30th in the NFL this season.
And not because they can’t pick up those tough yards, but because they are catching passes put in places by Prescott that make it very hard to pick up any extra yards. Throws that are behind, at the feet, or too high for his intended targets make securing the catch nearly all that can be accomplished.
Yes, Prescott has been accurate, but not accurate in stride so that whoever makes the catch can pick up those extra yards.
These are how big plays are made.
And big plays are how playoff games are won.
YAC yardage key in run game success
The Cowboys have been one of the better rushing attacks in the NFL this season with 1,211 yards on 256 carries, good for more than 134 yards per game and 4.73 yards per carry.
Look deeper, and you see why they are having success this season.
With Ezekiel Elliot, Tony Pollard, and Malik Davis getting the lion’s share of the work, this trio has proved to be a tough group to bring down.
The Cowboys are seventh in the NFL in yards after contact with 505 while being just one of five teams to average 2.0 yards or more after that initial hit.
Pollard leads the way with 288 yards after contact on his 103 attempts this season, good for a 2.8 YAC average and eighth overall in the NFL. Elliott is 22nd in the league with 184 yards after contact but just a 1.7 YAC average per carry.
That duo, and Davis, would have the Cowboys even higher up the running game rankings if they could break tackles. With just 10 this season, the Cowboys are breaking a tackle every 25.6 carries, which is tied for 17th in the league with the Panthers, Giants, and Cardinals.
Sure handed in 2022
Now, nine games into the season, the Cowboys’ wide receivers are proving they have sure hands.
As a team, the Cowboys’ wide receivers, tight ends, and running backs have just seven dropped passes, good for fifth best in the NFL behind only Las Vegas with four and Seattle, Pittsburgh, and Atlanta with six.
Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb are tied for the team lead with just two.
Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce leads the NFL with six, while Rams tight end Tyler Higbee has five drops to lead the NFC.
The Cowboys finished the 2021 season with 30 drops, good for 20th in the NFL and 11th in the NFC.