Micah Parsons' key play symbolizes what Cowboys' defense has become in 2022

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Brock Wright’s eyes were on the end zone. The tight end thought he was about to give the Detroit Lions a fourth-quarter lead.

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons had a different idea.

Parsons was 5 yards behind Wright at the time of the reception. He weaved his way through traffic -- reaching 20.41 mph, according to NFL Next Gen Stats -- collared Wright at the 2-yard line and brought him down at the 1. At initial glance it looked like Wright might have scored, but replays eventually showed he was down.

On the next play, Lions running back Jamaal Williams lost the first fumble of his career, with linebacker Anthony Barr scooping up the loose ball for the critical takeaway in a game that turned into a 24-6 Cowboys win.

“I mean, I tell people I’m going to be tired, but you’re going to be more tired than me because I’m never going to stop,” Parsons said. “And I practice that way. I work that way. Just being relentless, understanding that anything can happen on the field.”

Parsons’ play symbolizes what the Cowboys' defense has become in 2022:

  • A unit that will not go down without a fight; the Cowboys have given up more than 19 points just once.

  • A unit that can rush the passer as well as anybody in the league; their 29 sacks through seven games are the most the Cowboys have had since 1987 (34).

  • A unit that can take away the ball, too; they have 11 turnovers in their past five games.

For the first time this season, the Cowboys did not allow a touchdown, holding the Lions, who entered with the No. 3 scoring offense in the NFL (28 points per game), to two first-half field goals.

This came a week after the Cowboys allowed two touchdowns in a game for the only time all season in a 26-17 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. The next day, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn used the term “pissed off” nine times in his weekly news conference.

If this is what “pissed off” leads to, opponents better watch out.

“Like they say,” said defensive end Sam Williams, who became the first rookie with two sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in the same game since Nick Bosa in 2019, “you play with the bull, you get the horns.”

Quinn actually told his defenders this was Shark Week.

“Every day we saw sharks,” Parsons said.

And when the blood got in the water Sunday, they circled.

“Sometimes you get one of them,” Parsons said. “And sometimes they attack in packs. It’s just like that.”

The first bite was cornerback Trevon Diggs’ interception of a deep pass from quarterback Jared Goff intended for wide receiver Josh Reynolds on the first drive of the third quarter. The Cowboys turned that into the first of running back Ezekiel Elliott’s two touchdown runs for a 10-6 lead.

“They’re playing into my game,” Diggs said. “I want the ball to go up, especially the deep ball. I feel like that’s when I’m at my best.”

The next takeaway was Barr’s recovery after an apparent punch free from defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence at the Dallas goal line. While the Cowboys did not turn that into points, they were able to avoid a deficit by stopping a Detroit touchdown. On the next drive, cornerback Jourdan Lewis made a diving interception of a Goff throw to receiver Tom Kennedy. Unfortunately, Lewis was lost for the season with a midfoot injury on the takeaway.

Fortunately, the Cowboys turned that into Elliott’s second touchdown and a 17-6 lead.

“When those guys go out there and get turnovers, it’s important for us to make sure we get points out of that,” quarterback Dak Prescott said. “That’s how you win games, and it’s also how you blow them away, honestly. This whole group, how hungry they are and the way that they attack is something I’ve seen in training camp and something I’ve seen in these last five weeks.”

Williams got into the act next, stripping Goff of the ball with 2:20 to play, and Parsons got his first sack/fumble on the next drive with defensive end Dorance Armstrong recovering the loose ball.

The Cowboys’ five takeaways were the most they have had in a half since they had five in the first half against the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVII.

“I don’t know that I’ve seen a defense that is influencing the team any more than this one has, even the very best ones,” owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. “Now there’s a high skill level out there. There’s a high competence level. They’re well-coached. It’s a mix of some veterans, a lot of young players. They’re getting more confidence and, frankly, getting better technically every game.”