FRISCO, Texas – There's more to this game than pure production.
Production is the goal, and Micah Parsons has it. In eight career games, the rookie's Week 8 outing in Minnesota might be his best stat line so far.
The NFL seems to agree. Parsons' 11 tackles, four tackles for loss and quarterback hit in the 20-16 win against the Vikings earned him NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors. He's just the sixth rookie in team history to win that award, along with Terence Newman, DeMarcus Ware, Bryan McCan, Sean Lee and Leighton Vander Esch.
"For me, I feel like it's a stepping stone of what I could be capable of. I've just got to be consistent and keep working hard," Parsons said.
Talking about his performance on Wednesday, Parsons circled back to the aforementioned point. It's not just that he made plays against Minnesota, he also did not make mistakes. Understandably, that's been a growing pain for a 22-year-old rookie who didn't play college football last season.
So for Parsons, the plays are good. But playing assignment-sound football is just as important.
"What everybody don't know is, at the end of the game, you could have three sacks but you've got five missed assignments," he said. "So I say that's the most clean, the most productive – obviously the most clean and productive game I've had since I've been here."
Maybe it's too early to say, but a big part of that could be that Parsons had fewer responsibilities on Sunday night.
The Cowboys made one subtle change in the leadup to kickoff, and that was having Jayron Kearse assume play calling responsibilities. It's a bit unusual for a safety to wear the green dot that signifies his helmet has a radio receiver to put him in touch with the coaches' booth, but Kearse said it's a role he was happy to fill.
"It's just something the coaches came to me about and felt like to help us in a lot of different ways. So I was up for it," he said. "We gave it a little trial run during the week in practice and it was good for me. So everybody thought the play calls were good and everything was smooth so we went along with it."
Parsons wasn't quite ready to say that the switch is what enabled him to play such a great game, though he did allow that he'd check back in, as Kearse will once again be calling the plays on Sunday against Denver.
It's a natural conclusion, though. The Cowboys have been asking him to call plays throughout the season, on top of the type of assignment versatility that's seen him line up all across the defensive formation, even playing some edge rusher at times.
"Micah is a great player and is going to continue to get better," Kearse said. "I think, him being so young at the time right now, it just takes one thing off of his plate and it allows him to go play free."
Given the results from Sunday, no one seems likely to complain about this current arrangement. Parsons certainly doesn't lack for confidence, so it'd hardly be surprising if this is simply a sign of things to come.
"There is never a time when I'm in the game where I feel like I don't belong," he said. "I know I belong here. I know I should be out here playing."