INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Win pretty or win ugly, but win. As the Dallas Cowboys enter their bye week, they've now put both types of victories on film, going from blowing out three of their first five opponents to using a gritty three-point win over the Los Angeles to bounce back from their only blowout loss of the 2023 season — at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers in Week 5.
A little more than one week later, the Cowboys' defense took the field against a Chargers' offense headlined by a list of talent, including quarterback Justin Herbert, and orchestrated by former Cowboys' offensive coordinator Kellen Moore.
It was a unit that averaged more than 27 points per game heading into Monday night, but exited with a 20-17 loss that was punctuated by an eight-yard sack by Micah Parsons and a game-sealing interception by Stephon Gilmore, his second of the season.
Parsons shook off an offsides penalty on the play before to take down Herbert, helping end what had the potential to be a game-winning drive after Brandon Aubrey gave the Cowboys a 20-17 lead with a little more than two minutes remaining in the contest.
"Just gotta be patient and wait for your opportunities," he said. It wasn't just about getting the win. It was about getting back on track and being the team we want to be."
The First-Team All-Pro pass rusher was tasked with taking several reps at linebacker on Monday, due to the loss of Leighton Vander Esch to injury, and finally found his bearings when it mattered most.
"It was just about moving me around so that I could make plays, and things like that," said Parsons.
As for Gilmore, the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year who has wasted no time in making an imprint for Quinn's defense, the defensive effort against the Chargers was about not letting any one thing dictate the mentality of the Cowboys' defensive approach.
It was always about the next play, and not the last one.
"It was big," Gilmore said of the victory. "It was a back-and-forth game. … But we were able to make a play in the end. … No matter what happened, we kept competing, good or bad, we just kept fighting. We tried to keep them out of the end zone. It wasn't perfect, but we were able to make [enough] plays and forget about the bad plays."
And for the interception picked off of the tips of the turf blades by Gilmore?
"I just stayed in my backpedal," he explained. "I broke on the pass before he did — just trusting my technique and I was able to make the play."
The Cowboys will now enter the bye week at 4-2, having taken full advantage to not only re-establish themselves, but to also capitalize on the Week 6 losses by both the 49ers and the Eagles — who both sit at 5-1 on the season.
Gilmore, Parsons and the Cowboys know exactly what they'll focus on over the next two weeks, in addition to preparing to host the Los Angeles Rams in Week 8.
"To get healthy," said Gilmore. "We've had a rough couple of games. And we need to get better, do better, these upcoming games and go from there. … It's big. The more games you play, the bigger the games get.
"It felt good to get this win."
Parsons agrees completely.
"It feels good," he said. "Now, we just need everybody to get ready to come show up after the bye week because we've got a tough Rams team."