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Big Facts: Defense Leads NFL in Five Major Categories


The first two games of the 2023 season have gone to plan for the Dallas Cowboys. Two impressive wins with plenty of contribution from all phases of the game. However, injuries in practice this week have provided new challenges for the rest of the campaign. This week the Cowboys (2-0) travel to the desert to face the Arizona Cardinals (0-2) for a chance to keep their perfect start alive. Here are the 10 most notable 'big facts' to remember ahead of Sunday's 3:25 CT kickoff on FOX.

Historic start for the defense – The Dallas defense enters Week 3 leading the NFL in scoring defense, total yards per game allowed, passing yards per game allowed, sacks, and takeaways. Through all the incredible defenses in league history, Dallas would be the first to ever lead all five categories. There is still a long way to go, but the defensive trajectory has a chance to be great.

Just throw it away – Entering the third week of the season, opposing quarterbacks would have a higher passer rating when throwing each of their pass attempts away (39.6), than when they're throwing against the Cowboys relentless defense. Right now, the Cowboys are allowing a 34.2 passer rating for opposing quarterbacks, lowest in the NFL.

Odighizuwa's slight lead over Parsons – With all the national attention on Micah Parsons, it's hard to believe he doesn't lead the defense in almost every statistic. However, Parsons isn't the only defender off to a blistering start. Osa Odighizuwa currently leads the NFL in pressure percentage (27.3) to go along with his three sacks to start the season. Osa, Parsons (26.8), and DeMarcus Lawrence (25.0) are all three in the top six of league-wide pressure percentage.

The Lion remains hungry – Micah Parsons is the only player in NFL history to tally multi-sack games in over 25-percent of his career games. Currently, Parsons has at least two sacks in 28.6 percent of his appearances. Next on the list are Hall of Famer Reggie White (21.6), T.J. Watt (19.3), and J.J. Watt (19.2).

Ertz turning back the clock – The Cardinals are leaning on veteran tight end Zach Ertz through the first two games of the season. With six catches in each of the first two weeks, Ertz has 12 receptions heading into a matchup with the Cowboys. Throughout his career, mostly with the Eagles, Ertz racked up 77 catches vs. Dallas, the second-most against any opponent in his career.

45 percent of the rushing yards is from QBs – If there's been any knock against the Cowboys in the first two games, perhaps it's allowing the quarterbacks to get loose on the ground. In two games, the Cowboys have allowed 172 rushing yards, but 79 of that is to the quarterbacks. So far, 45 percent of their opponent's ground game have come from the legs of Zach Wilson and Daniel Jones. Something to watch against Joshua Dobbs, who had a 23-yard rushing TD last week against the Giants.

Micah is out-pacing D-Ware – Micah Parsons enters Sunday's game against the Cowboys needing just a half-sack to reach the 30-sack milestone. Parsons has three sacks already this year and could feasibly get to 30 on Sunday, his 36th career game. In comparison, DeMarcus Ware, the Cowboys' all-time leader in sacks with 117, needed 46 career games to reach 30.

13 first-round picks on the roster – This offseason, the Cowboys added four players to the team that have been first-round picks, on top of their newest drafted player in Mazi Smith. One of them is cornerback Noah Igbinoghene, a first-round pick of the Dolphins in 2020. He'll be on of the players the Cowboys are counting on to replace the injured Trevon Diggs. Ironically, Igbinoghene was the fifth corner taken in the 2020 class and Diggs was the eighth.

16 points or less for a 3-game record – So far, the Cowboys are sitting on just 10 points allowed this year, the fewest by any team in franchise history for the first two weeks. To keep that going through the first three games, the Cowboys will need to hold Arizona to 16 points or less. Currently, the 1974 Cowboys were the stingiest defense in team history through three games, allowing just 27 total points.

Close, but so far in the Desert – Strange things tend to happen to the Cowboys when they play the Cardinals on the road. Since 1999, the Cowboys are 2-7 in the last nine games played out in the Desert. In those seven losses, the Cardinals have defeated Dallas in overtime three times and have two other one-point victories. However, in the two games the Cowboys have won in that span, were by margins of 17 and 11 points.

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